In Little Guyana, Proposed Cuts to Family Immigration Weigh Heavily

For a community that relies upon tightly knit family units, where multiple generations live together in one house and grandparents often care for grandchildren while parents work, the constriction of family immigration would be especially wrenching.

“In our Guyanese community, nuclear family is not tied down to mother, father, children,” said Deborah Assanah, 56, associate director of the Guyana Cultural Association. “We have like a village of family members who assist with raising the kids.”

The Guyanese community, which includes people of Indian, African, Chinese and indigenous descent, has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation among New York City immigrants, perhaps aided by the availability of extended family to care for young children, said Philip Kasinitz, a sociology professor at the City University of New York.

And because many Guyanese immigrants send remittances to relatives at home, cutting off family immigration would effectively make immigrants responsible for financially maintaining two households, with no prospect of reunification, said Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council.

Additionally, many Guyanese parents prefer for their children to come to the United States either as very young children or after they have completed their education, so that they can integrate more easily into American society or the work force, Ms. Assanah said. But that means many are older when they immigrate, making them targets of the new proposal. Ms. Assanah immigrated in 2008, sponsored by her husband, who is a citizen. A few years earlier, he also sponsored their twin daughters, who were 21 at the time — older than the proposed new cutoff.

Many Guyanese had not yet focused on the bill. Vrinda Jagan, a lawyer in Richmond Hill who works on immigration, said that immediately after the November election, clients flooded her office with questions and pleas for reassurance that they would not be deported en masse. But nobody had asked her about the new bill, she said. And applications for family sponsorship have not flagged since President Trump’s endorsement of it.

“I sent out a few this week,” she said. “They’re continuing to petition for their family members, and they’re petitioning for their spouses, their children, a lot of children over 21. That hasn’t changed.”

The policy would be most devastating to people whose applications…

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