Immigrant's Plea For Comprehensive Overhaul
Mikhel A. Crichlow
[Op-Ed: Immigration Reform]
When I dreamed of my future I saw myself sitting behind a drafting table, a roll of blueprints stretched out in front of me, with pencil sketches on the wall reflecting the architectural forms of the iconic New York City skyline.
From an early age I expressed my desire to dedicate my life to this profession. My mother, a Caribbean educator for over two decades, realized my passion could not be obtained if I remained in my native land. So when the Department of Education of New York City offered our family the opportunity to come to New York City; my mother gave up everything; her home, family, friends, and all of her worldly possessions to come to the United States so that I could pursue my career goal.
Yet after 12 years in the United States, because of the broken immigration system my dreams have been deferred. My story is not unlike the other Dreamers in the US; our parents brought us to the US in search of a better life.
In the case of Caribbean Dreamers however the expectation was much more explicit, since the city government of New York came to the Caribbean and told our parents that our families would be on a pathway to permanent residency if they came to the US to work for the City. Yet I aged-out and became undocumented; a casualty of a broken immigration system that our elected officials are now lumbering forward to fix.
As commendable as the effort is to grant a pathway to citizenship to the reportedly 11 million undocumented people in the US, I fear that this law will be a reaffirmation of the status quo. A doubling down on the policies of increased deportation will lead to the upheaval of communities and the breakdown of the family unit.
The overly restrictive, complicated and costly process of the Senate proposal will cause many immigrants fall back to the shadows. The preferential treatment of the so-called Dreamers; a classification that punishes children that came to the US under the ages of 18 and 21 and those that were able to succeed and earn diplomas in their native countries. And though the Senate proposes that all outstanding immigration applications stuck in the backlog would become current; no action would be taken to expedite the path to citizenship for those children that aged-out.
As one who immigrated to the US legally yet fell out of status through bureaucratic flaws in the immigration process I have seen my peers surge on with their lives ahead of my while I am trapped in an immigration limbo. I have a degree yet I am unable to use it, I want to continue studying towards the career I love but I am unable to afford too.
I live in constant fear of being lost in the black hole of immigration detention and ultimately deported to a country I have lost ties too. And as our parents and younger siblings gain the Legal Permanent Resident status that our families were promised; as our younger undocumented brothers and sisters qualify as Dreamers for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) work authorization and see the prospect of an eventual pathway to citizenship through the Senate bill; we the older Dreamers, have little recourse. The best we can expect is an arduous and extended battle to the possibility of second class citizenship.
As the House of Representatives is put into the spotlight to draft an immigration bill that can move immigration reform forward, their leadership continues to refuse to overhaul the broken immigration system. The case has been made of the economic benefit for a legalization bill, yet their apparent inaction will keep the 11 million or so undocumented taxpayers from legalization. The piecemeal plan of legislation that is proposed will not only maintain the status quo for much into the future but persecute and demonize the hard working immigrant families.
I truly believe that this is a compassionate nation. Whenever there is a disaster abroad as a nation we are enthusiastic to help the distressed families and assist their nations in rebuilding efforts.
Yet right here in the US there is a population in crisis that has been neglected for far too long. We need a compassionate approach to immigration reform that will decriminalize and reunite our immigrant families.
For the children like me, that were lost to a hopelessly broken immigration system, the promises that were made to us over a decade ago remain unfulfilled.
Mikhel A. Crichlow is Co-Founder of The International Youth Organization