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Brooklyn Reader: Jeffries, Clarke and Caribbean-American Leaders in Brooklyn Address Obama’s Immigration Overhaul

Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and Yvette Clarke (NY-09)– both co-chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Reform Task Force — held a press conference on Friday at the Shirley Chisholm State Office Building to convey words of support and praise for the executive order passed by President Obama on Thursday that will now allow millions of immigrants living illegally in the US to apply for work permits.

Under the president’s new reform plan, as many as 3.7 undocumented parents who have lived in the US for five years with children who are US citizens or legal residents now can apply for work permits lasting three years.

Another part of the package will extend a program that gives temporary legal status to undocumented residents who arrived in the U.S. before 2010, potentially extending the program to another 300,000 people.

Obama said he had grown weary of trying to convince Congress to engage in a serious discussion on immigration reform, so he bypassed the legislature with a new plan that will allow illegal immigrants to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

The executive order will impact thousands of New York City residents who trace their roots to English-speaking and French-speaking Caribbean nations such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Haiti, as well as nations such as Guyana.

“New York is a place where people have come from all across the world in pursuit of the American Dream. These immigrants have helped make New York City the greatest city in the world,” said Jeffries at the press conference. “They are hard-working, entrepreneurial, community-centered and family-oriented. Many have come from the Caribbean and have helped make Brooklyn a special place.

“It’s a system that House Republicans have refused to address year after year after year,” said Jeffries “But Republicans have neglected this issue and that is what has brought us to this moment.”

Republicans are characterizing the move by Obama an “illegal power-grab” that “fails to address the root causes of the dysfunction in our immigration system.” Texas Governor Rick Perry argued the move would “lead to more illegal immigration, not less.”

Furious that the President acted independent of Congress, Republicans already are talking impeachment.

But Clarke said the reform action was long overdue and that Democrats must stay the course and stand firm against any pushback from Republicans.

“This is indeed a departure from a broken 20th Century immigration system that really needs to reflect who we are as a nation today, and that is a nation of immigrants,” said Clarke. “Though we hear the pushback right now from Republicans, my hope is that they will walk into the light. It is our hope that after they finish with all of their wining and crying and threats, they will see the wisdom in making this a reality.”

Clarke said she and the other members of the Immigration Task Force will be working to ensure that there is a seamless transition in the implementation of the executive order and encourages immigrant members of the represented districts to step forward and register.

“”We’ve got more work to do. But it is a substantial step in the right direction,” said Jeffries. “This executive action is good for the country; it is good for the economy, and it is certainly good for the immigrant community here in Brooklyn and all across the city of New York.”