While Obama’s new immigration policy has generated a vocal response from supporters, those who disagree with his course of action have also voiced their opposition. Among the dissenters are 26 states – including Florida – that filed a lawsuit in Texas this past February, effectively placing an injunction on the policy before it can take effect early next year, potentially changing the lives of five million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Obama’s new immigration policy would allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children protection from deportation. The policy would also protect parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for several years. The program would only allow those without a criminal background, and the intention to either pursue further education or join the armed forces, to qualify.
Attorney General Greg Abbot argued in December that the president had overstepped the powers of the federal government, and that each individual state should be granted the power to enforce immigration laws. The argument opposing the immigration policy also cites the amount of money that states will have to pay in order to finance the education, healthcare and driver’s licenses of undocumented immigrants should they be granted protection from deportation.
Obama announced the new policy last year on Nov. 20, after the midterm elections. “We want a system that takes into account that there are good people out there but who are very much our neighbors and our friends,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House website. “Their kids play with our kids, and they love this country and they want to contribute to its success. If we are going to be a nation of laws, and a nation of immigrants, then we’re giving them that opportunity. I think that that’s a common sense solution that most Americans would believe in.”
This is good news for the numerous undocumented immigrants who are currently subject to difficult working conditions or other injustices, yet do not speak up for fear of deportation.
“In this country, having a citizenship is kind of like having your humanity,” third-year Wilmarie Rios-Jaime said. “In that context, anything is a win.”
Rios-Jaime was born in Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States and, as such, was granted U.S. citizenship at birth. Rios-Jaime stated that she did not have the typical experiences of those who come to the United States.
“It’s not something I’ve had to think about ever,” Rios-Jaime said. “It’s definitely something that separates [me] from the current experience of a Latino people. You’re born with a citizenship and so many people risk their lives trying to gain that citizenship. It’s definitely a privilege.”
The Obama administration has responded to the injunction with a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Federal attorneys hope to overturn this blocking of the policy in a debate that is now centered on state versus federal rights. The appeal has yet to reach a verdict.“Immigrants sustain the economy,” Rios-Jaime said. “Immigrants are the people who are pushing the economy forward. Not giving immigrants citizenship rights makes it easy for unfair wages, horrible working conditions, and modern-day slavery. I feel as if we have more to gain from this.”
Information from this article taken from whitehouse.gov, texastribune.org, and the huffingtonpost.com.