President Barrack Obama’s executive order which will grant more than five million undocumented immigrants a chance to live without fear of deportation and apply for work permits leaves a bittersweet feeling in undocumented immigrant quarters. Images of undocumented immigrants on abcNEWS online showed some potential beneficiaries of the executive order hugging with tears streaming down their cheeks after the president completed his speech on television. Some other images showed pale-faced families feeling left out of the relief.
President Obama said that in signing the executive order, he only went as far as his presidential powers allowed him to. He challenged Congress to take the next step by passing the immigration bill that would allow more undocumented immigrants to benefit.
During a televised address to the nation on Thursday evening from the White House, the president said he empathized with parents who worked two or three jobs to support their families while risking arrest and deportation. He reminded Americans that the country is founded on immigrants, and that many of them had either been welcomed to the country as outsiders, or their parents had. He gave an example of a daughter of undocumented immigrants who, in spite of the challenges she faced, is now pursuing her third degree.
President Obama said that he was following the footsteps of previous presidents who had used their constitutional powers to address immigration problems. The last time a president signed an executive order of this nature was in 1986 when Republican president Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Lucy Herrera, a researcher at the UCLA labor center,wrote an email to abcNEWS stating that at the end of the speech, there was silence, followed with mixed reactions as those who had benefited celebrated while those who had fallen out of the five-year bracket expressed their frustration at being excluded from the temporary relief.
Maria Florez, who was among hundreds gathered at a community center in Chicago, said the immigration executive order made her feel bittersweet because some undocumented immigrants will not qualify for the relief. She said she has lived in the United States for more than 20 years and has U.S-born children.
After announcing his executive order Thursday, the president started a cross-country tour to explain to Americans why he acted without the legislators’ input on immigration. His first stop was at a Las Vegas High school on Friday, where he told his audience that he was compelled to take action because Rep. John Boehner had failed to bring the bill-passed by the Senate in 2013-up for debate in the House of Representatives.
Boehner, the Leader of the House of Representatives, said President Obama had damaged the institution of the presidency by signing the executive order. He said the president’s action was likely to encourage people to enter the U.S with the intention of staying without authorization.
Even though President Obama’s executive order on immigration has left a bittersweet feeling in some undocumented immigrant circles, the fact that he acted at all has opened up debate on the issue once more. Pro-immigration activist groups have said they will continue pushing for the legislature to pass a comprehensive bill while leaders of the Republican Party say the president’s action has made it more difficult to reach a compromise on the issue in future.
By Benedicto Ateku