Kenyans in US Welcome New Immigration Proposal
Expectation and excitement engulfed the Kenyan community in the US on Monday evening following a plan to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants unveiled by a bipartisan group of senators.
Kenyans, majority of who live and work in the US without proper legal status were hopeful that the move taken by leading legislator from both the Democratic and Republican parties would finally deal with the vexing issue of comprehensive immigration program.
“I’m very excited about this bold move by the senators. I’ve lived in this country for more than fifteen years working odd jobs despite the fact that I hold multiple degrees from college. If this proposal goes through, I’d come out of the woods and find a job that I deserve,” said June Mukuria, a Kenyan resident of Louisville Kentucky when we reached him on the phone.
A bipartisan group of eight senators disclosed on Monday during a press conference that millions of undocumented immigrants would get immediate but provisional status to live and work in America under a compromise plan they were fronting.
While temporarily removing legal uncertainty for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, among them thousands of Kenyans, the senators’ outline also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers.
Only after those steps occurred could the undocumented immigrants already in the country begin the process of getting permanent residence commonly known as ‘green cards’ as a step toward citizenship, the senators told a news conference.
“They would no longer be deported, provided they don’t have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed, they would be allowed to stay here and work,” said Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in describing the immediate impact of the framework if crafted into legislation and enacted.
Speaking to the Standard from her office in Washington, DC soon after the announcement, Kenyan US based Immigration Attorney; Regina Njogu said the proposal seemed like a good bipartisan effort toward achieving comprehensive immigration reforms. “I’m particularly encouraged by the element providing for a pathway to citizenship. That will benefit many hardworking and well meaning Kenyans and other immigrants who have made positive contribution to this country over the years”. She said.
The outline for a possible immigration bill reflects a new willingness by mainstream Republicans to compromise following their party’s defeat in November, when President Barack Obama got strong backing from Latino voters.
“Elections, elections,” answered Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a veteran of past immigration battles in Congress, when asked to explain the push now for a bill that proved unattainable two years ago.
“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said. “We realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a preeminent issue with those citizens.”
His party and all Americans now realized that “we cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows,” McCain added.
Even though Africans do not feature anywhere when immigration issues are discussed in the US because in most cases they would be having Latinos in mind, millions of African would become beneficiaries of such a move. Monday’s announcement was meant to forestall President Obama’s proposal planned to be revealed today in a speech in Las Vegas.
The eight senators based their framework on four “pillars,” described as:
- A “tough but fair” path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, but only after bolstering the nation’s border security;
- Overhauling the country’s legal immigration system, including attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. universities;
- Establishing an employment verification system that holds employersaccountable for hiring undocumented workers and,
- Creating a guest worker program for positions that Americans are either unable or unwilling to fill.