Immigrants across the United States cheered and applauded President Barack Obama’s announcement last night that his executive action would protect nearly 5 million people from deportation by allowing them to have work permits. CCTV America’s Nitza Soledad Perez reported this story from Miami.
Thousands of immigrants watching Obama’s immigration reform speech anxiously waited to see if they qualified for work permits or knew someone who could benefit from the action.
Berta Sangles, a undocumented immigrant, said she’s never been happier to have a 9 year old daughter, born in the United States. Under Obama’s plan, Sangles, who is from Nicaragua, will be able to stop living in fear of deportation.
“Can you imagine? It’s been a long, tough and difficult fight, but today I feel happy, because the president has just given us some temporary relief,” Sangles said. “At least he just bought us some time until there are new presidential elections. It gives us time to finally be at ease, drive a car without being scared and work without fear.”
Under one part of Obama’s plan, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years or more and are also parents of children who were born in the United States will not be deported and can receive work permits, so long as the parents pass a background check and pay taxes and if these conditions are met.
Up to five million people would benefit from this new program, however an estimated seven million more undocumented residents will continue living in the shadows.
For example, the parents of so-called ‘dreamers’, or young people brought to the U.S. as children and are currently students and have received deferred deportation, are excluded from Obama’s executive action even as the deferred deportation program for dreamers is being expanded.
“My parents are undocumented as of right now,” said Roberto Benavides, a ‘dreamer’. “Bittersweet, happy for the people that qualify. As far as being in the movement, we know there is a lot to do.”
Many activists said Obama’s actions were insufficient.
“I don’t believe it is what we expected, and honestly I don’t feel comfortable,” said Carlos Pereira, an immigration activist.
The new immigration plan will not take effect immediately. Children of undocumented parents who grew up in the U.S. will be able to apply beginning in February. Others who are qualified will have to wait until next spring, if this action survives threats from the soon-to-be Republican dominated Congress.
Obama's immigration plan met with praise and criticismImmigrants across the United States cheered and applauded President Barack Obama's announcement last night that his executive action would protect nearly 5 million people from deportation by allowing them to have work permits. CCTV America's Nitza Soledad Perez reported this story from Miami.
While many have welcomed Obama’s new immigration policy, still others said it goes too far.
“Most people don’t realize we have a very generous immigration policy in U.S. right now. More than a million people a year legally plus hundreds and thousands of people coming legally as temporary workers,” said Jack Martin, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Many studies have found that undocumented immigrants to the United States don’t take jobs away from citizens. However Obama’s new policy allowing work permits for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants, could pose a potential challenge to citizens vying for the same jobs, especially if undocumented immigrants are prepared to work for less money, Martin said.
A recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 38 percent approve of the unilateral action Obama took yesterday but 57 percent favor his wider immigration goals of granting a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. The poll also found that 74 percent favored requiring undocumented immigrants to pay fines and back taxes, as well as background checks.
Some in the U.S. also oppose relaxing the laws on visa’s for high tech workers, entrepreneurs, and their spouses. Opponents argued that at a time when U.S. college graduates are struggling to find work and have record amounts of student debt, attracting foreign, highly-educated workers and their families puts pressure on American workers at the top end of the income scale, as well as the bottom.
Many question Obama’s immigration reform planWhile many have welcomed Obama’s new immigration policy, still others said it goes too far.
Obama’s unilateral action on the nation’s immigration policy has struck a nerve with Republicans who are spoiling for a costly political showdown. CCTV America’s White House Correspondent Jessica Stone reported this story from Washington D.C.
As Obama returned to a Las Vegas high school to sign his unilateral action deferring deportation for up to five million undocumented workers in the U.S., Republican congress members expressed strong opposition to the plan.
“This action doesn’t grant citizenship or the right to stay permanently, or receive the same benefits as citizens received, only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you and separate you from your kids,” said Obama in response to his critics.
Republicans are considering suing Obama over the decision, vowing to hold up his picks to lead government agencies and finding a way to overturn the deferred deportation measures legislatively. However leaders have promised that shutting down the government, as they did in 2013 and cost the U.S. economy more than $2.5 million, is not on the table.
“This action also punishes those who’ve obeyed the law and have waited their turn. By this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek,” said John Boehner, the House Republican leader.
Republican leaders said that Obama didn’t work with them to achieve immigration reform, but the White House countered that while one half of the U.S. Congress passed immigration legislation last year, and the other half refused to take it up.
Congressional Republicans declare political war on Obama's immigration planObama's unilateral action on the nation's immigration policy has struck a nerve with Republicans who are spoiling for a costly political showdown. CCTV America's White House Correspondent Jessica Stone reported this story from Washington D.C.
With President Obama’s immigration announcement, large parts of the immigrant community are left in limbo or with very little hope. CCTV America’s Andrea Arenas reported this story from Washington D.C.
Nini Baesa is a mother of three and she has spent at least 12 years fighting to keep her family together. Originally from the Philippines, she and her husband are green card holders. However her eldest daughter, Marianne, is the only family member without legal U.S. status that prevents her from lawfully finding a job, and she even runs the risk of being deported.
“The truth is we don’t even talk about it. I can feel for her. I know how frustrated she is. My daughter is very quiet. She does not let out her emotions. She will make you think that everything is ok that she can handle it, but I know that she is really really frustrated now,” said Baesa.
On Thursday, Obama vowed to provide administrative relief and work permits to 3.7 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and 300,000 young immigrants who entered the country illegally before they were 16 years of age.
But despite the presidential announcement, Marianne still will not be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Minors, known as DACA, which delays removal of undocumented children who entered the country before they were 16 years of age.
“It is very isolating to be the only person in the family who is undocumented. They cannot travel with their family. They can’t pursue higher education, and even if they can, they can’t find jobs in their field and Nini’s daughter has great potential,” said Prerna Lal, the staff attorney at Asian American Justice Center.
There are many immigrants whose cases have fallen through the cracks of the president’s executive order.
“If a person is not eligible for DACA, even with the change, are not eligible to be given any other visas, and they are still undocumented, and they are adults, given the situation, the president said if you are following the rules, then they probably won’t be deported,” said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif.
Some immigrants may not benefit from Obama\'s planWith President Obama's immigration announcement, large parts of the immigrant community are left in limbo or with very little hope. CCTV America's Andrea Arenas reported this story from Washington D.C.
CCTV America interviewed David Leopold, an expert in immigration law who runs a law firm that represents non-citizens on visa matters about Obama’s immigration reform policies.