African immigrants are all but missing from the national conversation on immigration reform.
Among the issues that many lamented were missing from the presidential debates was any substantive discussion about African issues as they relate to the U.S. However, immigration was discussed by the candidates, and despite the constant focus on Latinos, immigration policy is one African issue that may decide the election.
Although a majority of the over one million African immigrants in the U.S. arrived legally, and nearly half of all African immigrants are naturalized citizens, there are still many who would stand to benefit from legislation such as the DREAM Act and President Obama’s executive order authorizing deferred action for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) attempts to help young people who have lived in the U.S. for many years but are facing deportation because of their parents’ decisions. The proposed bill allows eligible immigrants under 31 a two-year, renewable postponement from deportation provided that they came to the U.S. before age 16; have lived continuously in the U.S. five or more years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.
After attempts to pass the DREAM Act failed in Congress, in June, President Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young undocumented immigrants who meet certain DREAM ACT criteria.
Mitt Romney has blasted President Obama for his immigration decisions, making it clear that he will push for legislation that supports “self-deportations;” a concept that relies on ensuring that it is logistically impossible for undocumented immigrants to be hired by employers, thus forcing them back to their countries of origin.
On Election Day, Maryland is just one of the states set to vote on their own version of the DREAM Act that would allow undocumented immigrants who can prove that they have attended the state’s high schools for at least three years and whose parents or guardians have filed, to take courses at community colleges at in-state rates.
Census data shows that Maryland is home to the second largest African foreign-born population, with a number that showed a 100 percent increase from 2000 to 2010. As the election nears, advocates are trying to remind African-Americans about Africans’ stake in the immigration reform debate.
"I think it’s hypocritical for us to want African-American children to do extremely well and not want others to do well,” Rep. Elijah Cummings told CBS Baltimore about the Maryland referendum. “I think what happens too often is folks climb up the ladder of life, and getting into the United States and getting into this land of opportunity and then some folks want to pull the ladder up and burn it."
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