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Rep. Clarke Working to Change the Face of Comprehensive Immigration Reform


Today, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke participated in a forum entitled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Bridging the Gap between African Americans and Immigrants of the African Diaspora.” She released the following statement:

“It is my pleasure and honor to welcome all of you to this very important forum entitled, ‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Bridging the Gap between African Americans and Immigrants of the African Diaspora.’

“As we have seen in the media, the immigration debate has been heating up, particularly with the state of Arizona trying to enact SB1070 into law not too long ago. For those of us who have been long time advocates, we know that this situation has just been coming to a boil for a long time.

“As many of you know, I am a strong supporter of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. This should come as no surprise, given what many of you may know about my district or my background.

“As the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, my Caribbean-American heritage has been the inspiration for many of my legislative agendas, including supporting the continued assistance in the post-earthquake recovery in Haiti.

“My congressional district is also one of the most diverse in the country. According to an estimate from the Census Bureau, approximately 39% of the residents in the district are foreign born immigrants. These individuals and families hail from South East Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and of course, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. The status of these residents ranges from legal permanent residents to some other legal visa designation, to undocumented.

“Because of the diverse background of these immigrant communities living in my district, I see the broad scope of issues that many of them face as a result of our broken immigration system, ranging from back logged visas and family reunification.

“And while the immigration debate tends to focus on the issues that plague our Latino brothers and sisters, we often see a lack of discussion on the other issues that face many immigrants from all different backgrounds, particularly our residents from the African Diaspora.

“All too often, we do not get a chance to hear a united voice from the African American community as well.

“Well, today we have assembled this fine panel before me to look more in depth into how we can strengthen our voice in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform debate.

“We will be looking into how we continue to address the many issues that plague the immigrant communities we serve, how we ensure that our voices are being heard as well as how to maintain unity despite the misconceptions and fears that opponents of comprehensive immigration reform use every day.

“As we strive to achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we must realize the commonality of our goals. Today, I urge members of these communities to unite their voices in order to tackle their shared concerns, and finally bring about the immigration reforms we so desperately need.

“In order to fix our broken immigration system and establish true comprehensive reform, we must recognize that the experiences, obstacles, and goals are shared by all immigrants and stakeholders alike. We must never forget that our American heritage has transformed our land into what former New York City Mayor David Dinkins has called a ‘gorgeous mosaic.’

“The diversity in our collective history has allowed us to embrace those coming to our shores, in order to strengthen, build and contribute to a better and stronger nation. In this regard, we have an obligation to ensure that the immigration reform debate mirrors the diverse faces of America.

“I too, am the face of comprehensive immigration reform, a second generation American of immigrant parents. The debate must include a face like mine, representing the countless immigrants from the Caribbean who have a history of contributing to the fabric of our nation and reflect the promise of America.

“Let us never forget the immigrants of all backgrounds, who contribute to our society; who come to our shores embracing the American dream; that labor in rebuilding our great nation and strengthen our great nation, as well as serve honorably in our Armed Forces.

“I hope you all find this forum to be insightful and educational. Hopefully, we can all learn from one another and unite in our shared goal of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”