Obama bypasses Congress, changes immigration policy
Relieved from fear of deportation and eager to gain employment, students say
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07
President Barack Obama announced an executive change in immigration policy Friday, offering the chance of employment to illegal immigrants, including students.
“Let’s be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix,” Obama said from the White House on Friday. “This is the right thing to do.”
According to The Associated Press, the policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. The “administrative relief” bypasses Congress, partially and temporarily achieving the goals of the DREAM Act, which is congressional legislation that aims to establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the U.S. illegally but who attend college or join the military.
“I feel very grateful for the courage Obama has shown by stepping out there and putting at least a temporary solution to the problem of the undocumented youth out there,” said Maria Fernando Cabello, senior political science major, illegal immigrant and DREAMer.
Cabello said she, along with the rest of the DREAMer community, have been fighting for an executive order for about two years.
“He always told us that he can’t pass the DREAM Act — that’s a Congress issue,” she said. “And we always told him, ‘Well, do something.’”
Cabello was 12 years old when she came to the U.S. from Mexico.
“For almost half of my life I’ve had to live under the shadows and the fears of getting deported and getting separated from my family,” she said. “On Friday … that was the last time that I had to be afraid that I was going to get deported.”
Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military.
The change drew a swift repudiation from Republican lawmakers, who accused Obama of circumventing Congress in an effort to boost his political standing and of favoring illegal immigrants over unemployed U.S. citizens, according to The Associated Press, which quoted Republican Lamar Smith, GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in Texas.
“President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people,” he said.
The immigration policy, changed during an election year, could reverse under a different president, such as GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“Whether Romney decides to keep it, I know the DREAMers going to keep fighting for what’s right,” Cabello said. “Of course we still need long-term relief, and the DREAMers are still striving for it.”
Cabello, a senior, said she is happy to know she can start applying for internships.
“I’ve gone through my college years hearing ‘Have you applied for an internship,’ ‘Do you have a job lined [up].’ As a senior, all I could think is I can’t; I don’t have a work permit, I don’t have a social security [number],” she said.
Those who meet the requirement can apply for a work permit that will be valid for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
“It’s definitely a relief; it’s a little less pressure,” Cabello said.