While Republicans have strategized, and several states have planned to sue in order to stop President Obama’s executive order on immigration; the national debate has reignited a discussion which had temporarily gone quiet before the November elections,both amongst advocacy and conservative groups alike.
Obama’s executive action plan for immigration will offer immigrants who qualify three years of relief, which means new applicants would be protected from deportations through the first year of 2017.
The order has been expected to affect some five million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
Still, advocacy groups said the protections could have gone even further, with several organizations calling for a broader, more comprehensive policy, which is more than just a temporary fix.
“As a result of the announcement, there will be relief for families who have been scared to leave their homes,” said Carly Fox, an organizer for Worker Justice Center New York. “And, they can speak up when there’s a workplace abuse. That there’s a degree of safety to uphold their rights is important. But, it was not broad enough. It was not comprehensive enough. We have been exploiting the labor of Latin Americans, and we have a hand in that as a nation.”
Fox pointed to the fact that, although parents of U.S. born children who have no criminal background, and have lived in the country for more than five years will be safe from the possibility of being deported, an estimated six million undocumented immigrants who may not meet those criteria will be left out.
“For example, a farmworker who has been here 18 years, but doesn’t have a U.S. child; he will be excluded,” she said.
Fox has been part of a coalition of advocacy groups, which held a press
conference following Obama’s announcement, including immigrant workers, who
gave their reaction to the new policy.
“I was listening to President Obama’s announcement, and it seems to me like it’s better than nothing,” said Jose Coyote, a Mexican dairy farmworker and member of May First Farmworker Committee of NY, from Mt. Morris, N.Y. “It’s like, you have to start with something. And, like we’ve said to everyone; we’ve come to this country to escape danger, poverty, and violence that happens to us in our countries. We are here to work; to do the right thing, to provide food for everybody. I didn’t come to this country to manufacture weapons. I came to this country to produce food. But, I’d like to see a reform that benefits more people. Because, you know, a lot of people are going to be left out of this. And, it’s also just temporary. It’s only three years.”
Other proponents of Obama’s immigration action said they had the same mixed feelings regarding the new policy; they were excited to see immigration law move forward; yet, they had hoped more people would be protected under the order.
“We do believe that this is short of what we were expecting,” said Jose Perez, an immigration attorney, in Syracuse, N.Y. “But, we have to realize that 3,000 to 5,000 families will benefit in Upstate New York. We will now be filing new motions with immigration courts to stop deportations of immigrants with driving violations. However, this temporary fix is just that, a temporary fix. We need something more permanent; we need something more comprehensive that shows what this country is about.”
On the other hand, Joe Hicks, member of the national group Project 21, a leadership network which is largely comprised of black Conservatives, said he has seen the new law differently.
“He’s overstepped bounds,” Hicks said. “The president can’t create laws. He can’t make new laws. I think there are a lot of people like me who are disappointed. There are a lot of people who are standing in line to come to this country legally who must be feeling like chumps right now.”
“I’m opposed to amnesty,” he stated. “Amnesty is the backend of the debate. To do this the right way; one, you secure the border. Two, you’ve got to be astringent in your interior enforcement. And, finally, then you look at how many people we have in the country, illegally. Then, specifically, you grant amnesty with the bargain being we limit any future people coming in.”
In addition, Hicks said, even though undocumented immigrants may be here to work, it tightens the job market for other struggling Americans, namely African-Americans, who may be trying to re-enter the job market in an economy that is still recovering from the recession.
“It dumps as many as four to five million new workers in the job market in areas which black Americans are struggling to gain entry into,” he stated. “And, entry level black workers have been the slowest to gain inroads into recovery, post-recession. This isn’t about Latinos. This is about American citizens. You’ve got American citizens finding themselves competing against people who are not citizens. So, it’s a question of fairness.”
However, conversely, according to Fox, giving undocumented immigrant workers legal rights in this country will ultimately be invaluable to us all.
“I think, as a black person, or a poor white person, we have to keep this as a working issue,” she stated. “We need to look at this as; it really benefits all of us when workers can stand up for themselves. I think it’s really important to remember it’s really about workers, and people as human beings.”
As the debate continues, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio brought mayors and senior officials from 25 cities across the U.S. to a day-long summit in New York Dec. 8 to begin implementing the action nationwide.
And, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Nov. 25, 45 percent of voters said Obama should have taken executive action on immigration, if Congress failed to act, while 48 percent said they were against the idea.