Migration policy changes under way - Diaspora leader says fewer Jamaicans will be living in the US
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Irwine Clare, advisory board member of the Jamaica Diaspora in the United States, said Jamaicans should be prepared for drastic reductions in the number of nationals granted immigrant status due to impending changes to US immigration policy.
"Fewer and fewer of us will be migrating. US immigration policy will change that," Clare said while addressing the St Ann Homecoming and Heritage Committee 10th Annual Awards Banquet at Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios on Saturday.
He said that if US President Barack Obama is successful in getting a new immigration law, it would change how Jamaicans migrate.
"It will move from the whole-family onslaught of migration to more of a cherry-picking, similar to Canada. It is happening, ladies and gentlemen. And why? Because as I stand here, I am confident my president, Barack Obama, will be successful in passing immigration reform that will impact many Jamaicans," Clare said.
Clare said the sibling petition - where persons file for their brothers and sisters, considered the strongest category - could be eliminated, which could cause the break-up of families.
"They are also looking at what we call the nuclear family, husbands and wives, children under 18, to be in that set, and others could find themselves in other categories. So it means that the opportunities for migration through the family petition process become fewer. That has always been the pathway for many Jamaicans to migrate to the United States. We must be prepared for that."
Obama's immigration reform proposal is centred around achieving four solid principles: strengthening border security, streamlining legal migration, earned citizenship, and cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers.
Clare, who is also co-founder and managing director of the New York-based Caribbean Immigration Service and chief executive officer of Team Bickle, which assists Jamaican athletes who travel to compete in America, also highlighted challenges that members of the diaspora experience as they seek to contribute more to Jamaica.
One of the challenges has to do with the erosion of trust among Jamaicans at home and those in the diaspora.
However, he said, the diaspora is ready to partner with Jamaica and he questioned whether Jamaica was ready for the partnership.
"When I say ready, it means, then, we must be engaged. If the diaspora should be considered important - I'm not getting into whether we should vote or not - but there are positions in this country that, when they become available, should also be available for qualified and interested Jamaicans in the diaspora," Clare said
Clare was honoured by the committee for his contribution to Jamaica and the disapora. He was presented with a citation by Custos of St Ann Norma Walters.
Also honoured for their contribution to Jamaica were returning resident Herbert Murdock and Noranda Jamaica Bauxite.