A proverbial sigh of relief seems to echo through the Caribbean-American community, following President Barack Obama's announcement about the halting of deportation for many young immigrants.
Under the new policy, U.S. immigration authorities will immediately halt the deportation of undocumented young immigrants who were taken to the states before they were 16 years old and are now under 30 years old. Qualifying immigrants would also be allowed to apply for work permits lasting two years, with an option to renew repeatedly. This new policy reports to affect at least 800,000 young immigrants.
The number of potential Caribbean immigrants affected by the policy is impossible to estimate, according to Irwin Clare, president of the Caribbean Immigrant Service in New York. Clare says the large number of Caribbean-Americans still living in the dark of illegal status makes it difficult to predict. Conservative estimates alone place the number of undocumented Caribbean immigrants in the U.S at 500,000.
Regardless of numbers, Clare however says the policy marks crucial progress for boosting the official presence of the Caribbean-American community – from allowing students graduating from high school to persue higher education without fear, to encouraging young entrepreneurs to emerge from "a subterranean economy into the legalized business operations of this country."
This potentially huge benefit from Obama's new policy has also won much renewed support for the president among the Caribbean-American community. In a National Weekly survey conducted this week among the South Florida Caribbean community, a whopping 96 percent of Caribbean Americans were in "strong" agreement with the president's decision.
Several Caribbean-Americans in the National Weekly survey, who previously claimed disappointment with Obama's support of same sex marriage, said "the president redeemed himself with the new immigration policy."
As the November presidential elections approach, the announcement does have a political undertone. The president's announcement would theoretically revamp support among the immigrant community, particularly in the swing state of Florida with ts large Caribbean and Latin American community.
On the Republican side, Florida's U.S. Republican senator Marco Rubio, reportedly under consideration as possible vice-presidential pick for the November elections, has set aside previous plans to introduce immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate that would grant work visas to some young Americans who entered the U.S. illegally.
According to a report, Rubio's spokesman Alex Conant said Obama's announcement took away the policy's momentum in seeking bi-partisan support.
Many crucial issues for the Caribbean-American community have remained unresolved however, by both the president and the U.S.legislative body.
Marleine Bastien, director of Haitian Women of Miami (FANM), said "we do applaud [the president's] decision to defer deportation of young immigrants here. We take it as a beginning, a step in the right direction."
Bastien however urged that "the DREAM act still needs to be passed, to blaze a trail for citizenship."