Cultural Revolutions

Feeling the Effects

Caribbean immigrants in New York City are feeling the effects of several new immigration reform laws. Although New York's immigration problems are acute—as the rage seen in the Abner Louima torture scandal attests—reform had to come from the federal level, since Mayor Giuliani continues to welcome massive immigration as a boon to the local economy.

On January 14, Congress ended a pilot program established under a provision known as 245(1), which gave "undocumented" aliens the right to stay in the country legally while their applications for citizenship were under review, though it also imposed a $1,000 fine. Over the opposition of Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Congress had repeatedly extended the program, bowing to pressure from activists and pro-immigration politicians like New York State Senator John Sampson, whose Brooklyn constituency includes one of the largest concentrations of Caribbean immigrants anywhere. Launched in September 1994, the program (discussed in a series of articles by Michael D. Roberts in the New York-based CaribNews) drew record numbers of applications for citizenship—1.6 million in the fiscal year ending in September 1997. Unable to process so many applications by the middle of January', the INS bureaucracy left many immigrants with "deportable" status.

Compounding immigrants' woes, the requirements are also stricter now for citizens...

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