March 25th, 2013
To U.S. Senators:
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Dick Durbin (D–Ill.)
Robert Menendez (D–N.J.)
Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.)
Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.)
John McCain (R–Ariz.)
Dear Gang of Eight Senators -
The United States is a nation of immigrants where many flock to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, many may not be able to enter or remain in the U.S. There is alot at stake for not only undocumented immigrants but for many Africans who are in the country legally and who want to immigrate to the U.S. and possibly begin the process of naturalization.
There are 3 main issues that we believe are at stake for African and Caribbean immigrants. Please consider them as you finalize the immigration bill.
1. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes 50,000 diversity visas available annually, drawn from a random selection among entries of individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. This program especially benefits Africans and Eastern Europeans. In fiscal year 2011, more than 100,000 Africans became legal permanent residents and nearly 24,000 of them benefited from the Diversity program. The Diversity program accounts for the most African admission for legal permanent residents apart from U.S. citizens' petitions for immediate family members. WE CALL FOR INCLUSION OF DIVERSITY VISA PROGRAM IN A FINAL IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL.
2. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a designation made by the Secretary of Homeland Security for a foreign country due to conditions within that country that temporarily prevents the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. For example, Mali has been in turmoil since early 2012 and an ongoing war prevents Malians currently in the United States from returning home. That is why we push for TPS for Malian nationals in the U.S. WE CALL FOR IMMEDIATE PERMANENT RESIDENCY FOR ALL HAITIANS, SUDANESE, SOUTH SUDANESE, SOMALIS, AND OTHER TPS HOLDERS TO BE INCLUDED IN A FINAL COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION BILL.
3. Deferred Enforced Depature (DED) was provided for 18 months to certain Liberians in the United States whose Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was expiring on September 30, 2007. President Bush further directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue procedures for granting work authorization to DED-covered Liberians. President Obama extended DED for Liberians to an additional 18 months most recently in August 2012. WE CALL FOR IMMEDIATE PERMANENT RESIDENCY FOR DED HOLDERS TO BE INCLUDED IN A FINAL COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION BILL.
Drafting this new immigration bill will provide a pathway to legal permanent residency for undocumented immigrants. History could possibly be written when you finalize a immigration bill. Coming up with a bipartisan solution to reforming our immigration system is no easy job. But, hopefully we have made your job easier for you by laying out 3 important matters that we care about: including the diversity lottery program and provisions for an immediate path to permanent residency for those on TPS and DED. We ask that you include these issues in the final immigration bill.
EDIT - As of Tuesday, April 16th, the newly released immigration bill does not include the diversity lottery program but does include provisions for an immediate path to permanent residency for those on TPS (Temporary Protected Status) or DED (Deferred Enforced Departure).
Organizing for Action representative, Chicago Mid-Northside Chapter
United African Organization
We urge you to call your members of Congress and tell them that the diversity visa lottery, temporary protected status and deferred enforced departure are essential for an inclusive comprehensive immigration bill. Without such a program, it will be difficult for Africans to enter the U.S. legally without long waits through family reunification or work authorization visas.