Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Boost the Promise of Higher Education – Forum Told

By Kwabena Opong

John Osae Kwapong, Director of Planning and Research at Columbia University said on Sunday, September 22 that the pending Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill must ensure the promise of higher education for undocumented immigrants. He noted that higher education may not be a guarantee for a job, but it definitely ensures the promise of a skills set that makes one employable. Mr. Kwapong, who is also a professor at Columbia, said that the 2009 recession and the massive loss of jobs notwithstanding, the unemployment rate among those with higher education is lower. The earning power of degreed workers is also higher.
Mr. Kwapong observed that even though no federal law prohibits the enrolment of an undocumented immigrant in college, barriers include obtaining federal grants and financial aid as well as a job after completion of one’s education. It is important that legalization should ensure access to education opportunities.
The chair of the African Commission of Newark Municipal Council, Dosso Kassimou lamented that even though the discussions form part of the African Heritage Forum, Africans present at the event did not reflect the diversity of the African community in the municipality. “There are no Nigerians here,” he observed. He mentioned how the African Commission worked to get the Temporary Protected Status for Liberians renewed this year. He called for unity in the African community and its active participation in the struggle for a comprehensive immigration reform. “Right now there are several Africans in immigration detention who may be deported without the due process,” he concluded his submission.
Attorney Evelyn Latse stated that she was more interested in encouraging Africans to participate in the debate for a comprehensive immigration reform. Everybody, including the undocumented should all be part of the process, she said. They should be able to tell their stories. She reiterated that the barrier to the community’s entry into the immigration narrative is the fragmentation of the African community. She noted that the community should have been represented at the forum to put some strength into the struggle. “Legal status doesn’t end with legalization or naturalization. Once an immigrant, always an immigrant,” she quipped. Ms. Latse ended her presentation with a sad story of a legal immigrant who died because the only person who could provide a matching kidney was illegal.
Mayor Joseph Champagne of South Toms River debunked the fallacies in the argument of the anti-immigrant bodies that legalization slows down the economy. The antagonists claim that immigration to the United States creates a drag on the economy; immigrants steal jobs from native born Americans; and immigrants depress incomes. Mr. Champagne, a native of Haiti and an immigration attorney cited himself as an example of a hardworking immigrant who arrived in the country with no English skills, but worked hard enough to become a lawyer and a mayor. Most immigrants take low-paying jobs. He supported his submission with research that immigration has a positive impact on the economy. Immigrants do not steal jobs, but take low-paying jobs. They also create their own businesses and “if we add jobs then we add value to the economy, he added.
The highlight of the event was the submission by State Senator Barbara Buono who stressed her immigrant past. Senator Buono is currently running against New Jersey Governor Christ Christie in 2014. She said she was living proof that education is the great equalizer as she spoke about her days after college and her law school days. “Immigration is all about opportunities, she said while observing that African immigrants have the highest number of educated people.
Buono promised that if elected governor she would partner institutions of higher learning and ensure that the state becomes the destination for high and middle class jobs. She advocated for the children of undocumented immigrants to be educated. She said that tax cuts for multibillion dollar corporations need to be extended to small businesses and small businesses should be given access to credit. According to the senator, New Jersey has so far lost 40,000 jobs and lamented the issue of people working multiple jobs for small wages. The state senator added “I brought my values to public policy,” as she spoke about what she did to improve New Jersey’s economy.
On immigration, Sen. Buono said an undocumented immigrant in New Jersey is five times more than any immigrant in the country to be deported. She wholeheartedly endorsed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform pending in the House of Representatives.

Posted by on Dec 16 2013. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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