Communities Applaud Obama’s Immigration Policy Shift
President Obama’s surprising immigration policy shift Friday, seemingly aimed at Hispanics, may have wiped away frustrations toward his annual deportation numbers and gained him crucial votes this election year. The president enacted an executive order that made about 800,000 illegal immigrants up to 30 years old, who were brought into the country as children, safe from deportation and eligible for work permits.
Alexandra Suh, director of Empowering Koreatown’s Immigrant Workers, said this was a wonderful step in the right direction. She said that she will now work to educate young people about this option and continue to advocate for positive changes in immigration policies.
“We are very happy to see it,” Suh said.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, expressed her appreciation for the “courage taken by the president.” She said these individuals are now eligible for more opportunities and that those living in the shadows can finally come forward. She said she also understands that this executive order is only a temporary two-year solution.
Those who qualify would be allowed to live and work in the country for two years and could be eligible for extensions, Reuters reported. Obama’s plan would cover a person who came to the United States under the age of 16 and have resided in the country for at least five years.
They must not have been convicted of any felony or significant misdemeanor offenses, according to Reuters. They must also be in school, have graduated high school or be honorably discharged from the U.S. military.
Obama’s administration deports approximately 400,000 illegal immigrants a year, Reuters reported.
Salas said the permanent solution would be the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and the consensus of Democrats and Republicans.
Obama’s announcement also faced criticism. Some questioned why undocumented immigrants should be granted work permits when the nation's unemployment rate is already high.
Salas’s answer is that the U.S. needs more revenue and young people working in high-paying jobs that contribute more to tax paying.
“Undocumented individuals are working, many times, under the table,” Salas said. “It just allows them to contribute more.”
Mohammad, who wouldn’t provide his last name, has run a petition website for the Dream Act for a year and three months.
“The most question I heard is do we get to drive,” he said.
A heated online discussion on his website raised a lot of questions about what to do and where to go for applications. Some posted their worries about whether the executive order would be repealed by a new president. The president’s decision seemed to help his re-election because some people said they shifted their votes along Obama’s immigration shift.
Juan Carlos Carrera, an American citizen, supported the policy shift. He said he isn’t a teenager anymore so he won’t be benefit personally.
“However, I want our Latino youth to be productive in this country,” he said.
Leslye Osegueda, an undocumented student, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles Friday. She said she’s thrilled to hear about Obama’s policy reform. She plans to go to law school. Even if there are worries, she said, right now she is just trying to be hopeful.
“We are very happy to hear this from President Obama,” Osegueda said. “We know this is not the end, this is just the beginning.”