Triangle immigration activists were skeptical Friday of the Obama administrations announcement that it would stop deporting some young illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.
The co-founders of the N.C. Dream Team, a group that backs national legislation that would provide some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, said President Barack Obamas announcement falls short of guaranteeing that deportations will be halted. The activists questioned whether the announcement was a political ploy to get the Hispanic vote.
Last year, the administration announced that prosecutors would use discretion in deportation cases, mainly focusing on threats to national security. But deportation numbers continued to rise.
Were not going to believe the president until we see it happen, Jose Rico, 22, of Raleigh, a co-founder of the N.C. Dream Team, said about Obamas Friday announcement. Weve been down this road before.
Immigration groups have attempted to occupy Obama campaign offices across the country to force the administrations hand on the immigration issue.
Were going to keep up the pressure until we get the result we want, said Viridiana Martinez, 25, of Raleigh, another co-founder of the N.C. Dream Team.
Activists have been lobbying Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would allow illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to attend college or serve in the military to attain citizenship. The group estimates that 51,000 immigrants in North Carolina would be eligible for citizenship under the Dream Act.
The lack of citizenship prevents those 51,000 immigrants from getting in-state tuition to attend colleges and to get a drivers license, and the immigrants worry about deportation. Both Rico and Martinez would benefit personally from the passage of the Dream Act and potentially from the new administration announcement.
Im not ashamed of being undocumented, said Rico, a Wake Technical Community College student whose family came from Mexico when he was 13 years old. Im not upset at my parents for coming here. They wanted to put a plate on the table.
A good stepping point
Though the policy announced Friday by the administration doesnt lead to citizenship, it indicates that the same people whod be eligible under the Dream Act also would be eligible for work visas and discretion from prosecutors on a case-by-case basis. Martinez said the policy still gives too much discretion to local immigration offices.
But Emilio Viciente, 20, of Siler City, said hes cautiously optimistic that the administrations announcement will benefit immigrants like him. Viciente, whose family came from Guatemala when he was 6 years old, was profiled in this weeks issue of Time magazine.
This might be only a way for Obama to get Latino support, said Viciente, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. But this is a good stepping point. Were going to hold him accountable for his promises.
Ron Woodard, director of N.C. Listen, which wants to stop illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration, accused Obama of pandering for votes and siding with people who entered the country illegally.
Every illegal alien who gets a work permit is going to disenfranchise a citizen, Woodard said. There are 20 million people out of work.