A US Congressional showdown over immigration reform will not take place until after November’s midterm elections, according to House and Senate leaders who have just updated their legislative agenda. President Bush says he favors comprehensive reform, but disparate bills passed earlier this year by the Senate and the House need to be reconciled before becoming law. A Senate version offers amnesty to a certain proportion of foreign workers who meet its terms, but a stricter bill passed by the House of Representatives calls for tough enforcement of border restrictions and the return of thousands of illegal aliens to their home countries. VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser discussed immigration reform with an African immigrant who goes by the pseudonym Kofi Selasie to conceal his identity, since certain provisions of his American visa have expired.
Kofi is seeking full amnesty in the United States and is still legally and gainfully employed in this country but is concerned that he cannot attend university here and that the issue of legal immigration for himself and other African immigrants is being marginalized in favor of the interests of Mexicans and Latin Americans, who make up the largest contingent of illegal aliens.
Kofi Selasie says Africans are getting lost in the current debate.
“It’s as if we don’t exist at all. We have three percent of the immigrants concerned being Africans. It’s as if the Africans who escaped mass trauma and war, disease ravaging their continent, their special situation is not being given any attention at all.”
Kofi suggests that African immigrants have a lot more to lose than Latin Americans if Congress does not reach an agreement on amnesty.
“Most Africans came here on visas. They bought expensive tickets and came across the ocean, unlike, say, our Latin Americans persons who just walked across. Mostly, these immigrants from Latin American countries were supported by their brothers and sisters who were over here. Shockingly, our black American brothers and sisters here did not join in to support us.”
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, immigrant Kofi Selasie points out that African immigrants are a low security risk. For the most part, he says, they are honest and proud that in America, they can work hard, with many holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet and send earnings back to impoverished relatives back home.
It is Kofi’s belief that if Congress fails to provide a workable amnesty, many Africans will go underground, avoid paying taxes, and fail to pass on the positive merits of living in a democratic society.
“You have a large number of people who are democratized, who are absorbed into American ways. These are the people who will go back onto the continent and spread the good news about democracy and about human rights. So on this 9/11 anniversary, we all remember what was done by this horrible people. America needs to be protected. For America to be protected, it needs allies. For America to have these allies, one way of extending this good will is by granting Africans who are here amnesty.”
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