Vivienne McLean is torn. “I go to every march, I come to every meeting, I sign every petition,” the silver-haired activist told me, laying out her credentials as an advocate on behalf of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented migrants in the United States. “But I am also a human being. I have to respond to my feelings about what is happening to my sister.”
We are sitting together at a seminar organised by the New York Immigration Coalition, and she has just asked an uncomfortable question. The seminar is launching a new report, Preparing for Legalization, which anticipates the day when comprehensive immigration reform will enable millions of undocumented migrants to regularise their status in this country. That day is not too far off, according to the seminar speakers, who anticipate that an alignment of political forces will allow the legislation through Congress this year. While Jamaican-born McLean welcomes that prospect, she fears that the monumental administrative task will push out waiting times for people who have applied to migrate to the US through formal channels.