One day after President Barack Obama announced his plan to shield millions of immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation, activists in downtown Los Angeles said Friday there is still more work to be done.
Immigrants across the region rejoiced as the president announced that 3.7 million parents of U.S.-born and resident children as well as another 1 million or more immigrants who arrived illegally as children could receive work permits and conduct legal transactions.
But activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles said Obama did not go far enough to help groups of Latina women known as “dreamer moms,” whose children were among about 600,000 legalized by the president in a previous program but were not included in his new action. Also left out of the president’s executive order were adult men who left their families behind and came to work in the United States illegally.
Holding a sign reading, “Gracias, pero faltan mas!” — “Thank you, but it’s not enough!” — Laura Padilla of the Full Rights For Immigrants Coalition expressed disappointment that about 7 million immigrants remained under the threat of deportation.
“We’re asking, what’s going to happen with the others who are not protected?” Padilla said. “We’re going to continue to march, gather and put pressure on the Republicans so something can be done.”
Francisco Moreno, an official of the Council of Mexican Federations, congratulated Obama for his attempt to revise the country’s immigration system.
“We are happy, but we need more to be done, and we will continue to push for reform,” Moreno said. “The immigrant community came here to work, which is the whole story of this country. We are not taking jobs from anyone.”
Liliana Morales, a mother of four who stood outside the Federal Building holding an American flag, declared Obama’s directive “a victory, but let’s not forget it does not cover millions of others.”
Obama, who announced details of his plans at the White House Thursday, rallied with supporters today in Las Vegas.
In his Thursday speech, the president pressed Congress to pass immigration legislation but also noted that every president over the past 50 years has taken similar action. He even quoted his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who said of immigrants, “They are a part of American life.”
“Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society,” Obama said. “… We have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country and who we want to be for future generations.”
Republicans responded quickly, saying Obama had overstepped his constitutional powers a year after declaring he did not have the authority to act on his own.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said that Obama “has said before that ‘he’s not king’ and he’s ‘not an emperor,’ but he sure is acting like one.”
But Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said Obama’s order to allow about 5 million immigrants to “come out of the shadows, have background checks, pay taxes and be held accountable” was the correct one.
“In addition, the president has made the wise decision to devote our scarce federal resources to deporting dangerous criminals and others who pose a real threat to public safety and national security. These actions will make us safer as a society and stronger as a nation,” she said.
The White House said the executive action would lead border authorities to target “felons, not families.”
The directive will allow immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to request relief from deportation and authorization to work for three years. To qualify, they must have been in the country for more than five years, pass a criminal background check, pay fees and show that their child was born prior to the issuance of the executive order.
Once qualified, they will also have to pay taxes.
The order will also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, by removing the upper age limit of 30. The DACA program will also be amended to offer three years of protection from deportation, up from the previous two years.
Obama’s order shifts additional resources to the border and establishes enforcement priorities designed to “increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.” It also calls for changes to address the backlog of pending immigration court cases.
The plan stresses that deportation actions will focus on people “suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members and recent border crossers,” according to the White House.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is,” Obama said.
The president blasted Republicans who might call his order “amnesty.”
“Well, it’s not,” he said. “Amnesty is the immigration system we have today.”
Boehner and other Republican leaders have said congressional progress on immigration has stalled due to the GOP’s belief that Obama will fail to enforce whatever laws are enacted.
They say his decision to act by executive order torpedoed all hope that Congress will pass immigration legislation, and they have vowed to attempt to overturn it.
–City News Service