Kenyans keen on Obama push for immigration

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Kenyans in the US have praised President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address that was delivered on Tuesday night in Washington DC.

Mr Obama’s speech, that reiterated the Democratic Party’s push for comprehensive immigration reforms this year, began trending on social media.

The President told the US Congress Chamber that he would not relent in his push towards getting citizenship for over 11 million illegal immigrants.

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Mr Obama spoke cautiously on the matter but noted that such a move would grow the economy and shift deficits by $1 trillion in the next two decades.

FIERCE OPPOSITION

“When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent and contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to invest and create jobs for everyone,” he said. “So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

A reform Bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate in June last year faced fierce opposition from the Republicans.

The Senate measure would permit immigrants to obtain temporary legal status within six months and apply for US citizenship in 13 years.

REGAIN ENTRY

In the last seven months, Kenyans living in the US have pegged their hopes on the Bill whose passage would make it easier for them to continue living in the country.

“Our hope rests with the son of Kogello,” Onyango Jed wrote on Twitter soon after Mr Obama concluded his speech.

Jean Kariuki, a student in California said on Facebook: “America needs us than we really need it. But laws must be followed. Hopefully, this Bill will sail through this year because we are tired of waiting.”

Many Kenyans who travelled to the US to study have opted to pursue other opportunities without regularising their immigration status.

They have for years failed to travel to Kenya for both social and business purposes because of fears that they will not regain entry into the US.

Last year, Kenya’s former Ambassador to the US Elkanah Odembo said that at least 200,000 Kenyans living in the US illegally face repatriation.

STUDENT VISAS

The envoy said the situation could be even worse as the embassy did not have the exact number of Kenyans living there as not all of them registered.

“Most of them went to the country using student visas but were not able to renew them after their expiry a year later.

“My estimation is that half of the 400,000 Kenyans living in the US do not have visas. That number could be even higher. It is a worrying situation considering that tighter immigration laws are being prepared by Congress that could see them sent home soon,” he said on NTV’s The Trend Show.

Thousands of Kenyan students are admitted to various institutions of higher learning in the US, some through scholarship or private arrangements. Other immigrants are winners of Green Cards.

President Obama has been keen to gather support for a legislative overhaul of America’s immigration policy, which is considered as one of the key agendas likely to shape the legacy of his two-term presidency.-nation.co.ke

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