Comprehensive Reform: TBI's Black Immigration Discourse Kicks Off At Medgar Evers

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Bertha Lewis


Last night, The Black Institute held its first Black immigration forum at Medgar Evers’ Founders’ Auditorium.

This event was the first in a planned tour promoting TBI’s G Project, a public awareness campaign granting visibility to the often neglected African, Caribbean, and Afro Latino immigrant communities, especially with respect to the debate over immigration reform.

The goal is to educate individuals about the impact of immigration within the African Diaspora, as well as to discuss immigration as a civil rights issue that impacts all Americans, especially African Americans. One of the featured panelists at the event was Civil Rights Activist and Legendary Musician Harry Belafonte.

“This conference gives a voice to the millions of Black immigrants that are so often neglected in the national discourse on immigration policy,” Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute said. “With comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress, the movement we started in September with The G Project must get louder and become more visible. Millions of families each year suffer at the hands of barbaric policies. Our leaders must recognize this reality and dedicate themselves to changing it.”

“We need to shift the conversation over immigration reform towards a conversation about the fundamental rights of every human being,” Estela Vazquez from SEIU 1199 said “The right to raise a family; the right to pursue personal happiness; the right to participate in a fair political system---these principles are being undermined at a massive scale and our government is failing to do anything about it. SEIU 1199 is thrilled to join The Black Institute, The Du Bois Bunche Center for Public Policy and the Caribbean Research Center to put an end to this willful negligence.”

“The present moment affords us the opportunity to really change the outlook of our society,” added Dr. Waldaba Stewart, Chairman of the Caribbean Research Center. “Gridlock and legislative impasse have plagued Congress for years. However, the bill The Black Institute has sponsored can cross partisan lines and unite our leaders under a banner of bi-partisanship. The goal of conferences like All Faces All Races is to make sure our elected officials know the importance of immigration reform that is inclusive of our Diaspora from around the world.”

“Right now, there are thousands of talented and credentialed young men and women who are undocumented and therefore unable to work, go to school or contribute to our economy in any meaningful way – many of these individuals are from African and Caribbean nations,” said Dr. Roger Green, of the Dubois-Bunche Center for Economic and Public Policy. “If these highly skilled and educated immigrants contribute to our society and help it grow it will not only benefit immigrants, but all Americans.”

The forum, which was sponsored by The Black Institute, the DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy, SEIU 1199 and the Caribbean Research Center, featured speakers such as Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, both of whom spoke about the state of CIR in Congress. Senator Eric Adams also spoke at the forum, focusing on immigration reform at the local level. Bertha Lewis, President and Founder of The Black Institute,  introduced her organization’s Black immigration campaign The G Project and spoke about TBI’s own efforts to get a bill off the ground – FAIR (Family and Immigrant Reunification Reform Act).

For years, several grassroots black-immigrant rights groups have been advocating for immigration reforms pertaining to Caribbean and African communities, including family reunification, a pathway to citizenship for temporary status holders, and affordable fines and fees associated with new citizenship. The Black Institute (TBI) has been instrumental in forming this debate and has called for widespread changes to be made to the current immigration reform compromise. TBI views immigration as a civil rights issue that impacts all Americans, especially African Americans.

The mission of The Black Institute is to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue to impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora). The Black Institute (TBI) is an “Action Tank” – A think tank that takes action. By implementing a three-part strategy:  Knowledge  (research, data gathering, polling and academic partnerships); Leadership (civic education, training and development); and Community Organizing, TBI changes the direction of public debate, trains and educates new leadership and develops initiatives to build wealth, power, and deliver justice to Black people and people of color. Our four areas of focus are Economic Fairness, Education, Environmental Justice, and Immigration.



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