Sheila Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee: “The Congressional Black Caucus will be pivotal” in immigration reform.

On February 4, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) held its first meeting on comprehensive immigration reform. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) made critical points in the meeting that are oftentimes missing from the debate.

On these points about the issue of where we can come together and where there are distinctions is to raise the factor of how serious and difficult this process may be, the Congressional Black Caucus will be pivotal in its role. One, because it is the conscience of this Congress. Two, because we have the uncanny ability of seeing from a broader perspective with what we have gone through in our lifetime, what our communities go through. We’ve seen discrimination and we are sympathetic and sensitive to how we can help others.

The support from the CBC should not surprise anyone. More African Americans who voted in the last presidential election support a process for legalizing undocumented immigrants than Latino voters do. In a November Gallup Exit poll, 81% of African Americans support immigration reform compared to 77% of Latino voters. An interesting piece of information that is constantly overlooked by the media and especially by our politicians.

In a press release, Caucus Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) outlined key concerns for comprehensive immigration reform:

  • Advancing legislation and policies that lead to comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Providing a voice for undocumented immigrants of African descent within the comprehensive immigration reform debate.
  • Addressing issues of mass detention and unjust criminality of immigrant populations.
  • Ensuring policies that are aimed at improving conditions within low-income and vulnerable communities are not averted by comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The most striking piece is the issue of mass detention. Oftentimes, under the guise of the “rule of law” immigrants are racially profiled, unconstitutionally placed in detention centers for extended periods of time and denied access to legal counsel. While private prison corporations are allowed to profit from human suffering, many families are unjustly separated in the meantime. Rarely if ever do we hear these issues addressed. Instead, we hear the same predictable rhetoric that places emphasis creating a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants in exchange for increased funding for border security. It will be interesting to see what level of involvement the CBC will have in the next few weeks on immigration reform. It will be even more interesting to see if the CBC can garner enough attention to these critical issues that have beleaguered the immigrant community for far too long.

Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.