On Friday U.S. President Barack Obama announced a change in immigration policy that would enable hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who came to the country as children from being deported back to their countries. The measure will allow 800,000 illegal immigrants to remain with their families. Obama used his executive power when making the decision, and bypassed a vote from congress.
Generally republicans have spoke out against policies that work to the advantage of illegal immigrants such as this. Many claim Obama took the action to gain support among Hispanic voters, and other minorities in the wake of the presidential election.
The policy change has drawn applause from immigrant advocate groups. Nadia Tonova, director for the National Network of for Arab American Communities' and Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services issued the following statement: "We believe this choice aligns with the fundamental values of our nation to treat people with humanity and dignity, and we encouarge prompt and efficient implementation of this decision so that it provides the most relief possible." Jaber and Tonova also say the executive action helps young people who came here as children avoid being sent to countries that many of them don't know or can't remember.
Several are regarding the decision as a step forward in the right direction towards comprehensive immigration reform that brings relief to the millions of undocumented people in the country. In a news release U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said, "Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they might not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here."
When making the announcement Obama said the action will make the nation's immigration policy more fair and efficient. "These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," Obama said. The president added that many of the people the new policy will affect were brought to the country by their parents, sometimes as infants and often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job, driver's license or a college scholarship. "Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you've done everything right your entire life--studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class--only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with even a language that you may not even speak," Obama said.
Juan Sancen, an undocumented student who just graduated as a salutatorian from Cesar Chavez High School in Detroit said the change offers students such as him incredible hope. He says he's American in every "single way except for a piece of paper." Sancen is now one step closer to persuing his dream of becoming a physicist. "Like my role model Albert Einstein, I'm an immigrant with a lot to contribute to my country," he said.