Immigrant families' mixed reaction to President Obama's speech

Immigrant families' mixed reaction to President Obama's speech
Felipe Diosdado and family

Felipe Diosdado watched President Obama’s speech on immigration Thursday night with his wife and two children at his side.

His family may be directly impacted by the president’s actions to stop deportation of as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

“If they deported me, they would also deport two U.S. citizens, because I would have to take my children with me to Mexico,” said Diosdado, 36.

Diosdao gathered with about 50 people to watch the president’s speech at a community center in Pilsen. They watched on a big screen a dubbed version of the president’s speech broadcast on Univision.

Most of those to benefit must have U.S. citizen children and have lived in the U.S. at least five years. They also will have to pay taxes.

The president specified that this is not an “amnesty plan” and it would not lead to U.S. citizenship for the impacted families.

Diosdado came to the U.S. in 1997 and his sons were born here. He also is relieved because he had been facing deportation. He was flagged by immigration officials after he tried to get an Illinois driver’s license.

His youngest son, Felipe, 9, said he was happy about the president’s speech.

“Without my father, this family is not together,” he said.

The president’s plan is controversial, and it is not supported by Congress. Republicans have vowed to oppose it at all costs.

However, both former Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan also took presidential action to protect some of the undocumented during their administrations.

President Obama, who had promised to enact immigration reform his first year in office, was under pressure from the Latino community and by immigrant rights activists who have lobbied for reform for years.

Some said the president’s actions were a positive step but that he did not go far enough.

In June 2012, the president had granted a reprieve from deportation and work visas for the “Dreamers,” undocumented youth brought here by their parents.

But under the president’s latest plan the parents of the “Dreamers “would not be covered and could still face deportation.

“They are not even covering half of the undocumented,” said Martin Unzueta, whose daughters qualified for DACA, and are activists in the immigrant rights movement.

“We have to work even harder,” said Unzueta, 60, also an activist, who is undocumented and had lived in the U.S. more than 20 years.

He also questioned what will happen when a new president is elected in two years.

In his speech, the president praised the work ethic of the undocumented. The president said:

After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time.  They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs.  They support their families.  They worship at our churches.  Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.  As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it:  “They are a part of American life.”

He also defended his decision to take action without Congress.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer:  Pass a bill.

The president’s actions are clearly not a solution for all undocumented families.

It’s a band aid on a larger problem that will not be solved any time soon – unless Congress acts.

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