Obama’s Executive Order: An Action by One to Protect the Many

US President Barack Obama holds his year-end news conference in the press briefing room at the White House in WashingtonI personally applaud the Executive Order on immigration issued by President Obama.

This action is way overdue. Let us keep in mind that the US Senate had passed legislation on a path to citizenship. It was not voted on in the House of Representatives because of opposition from the Tea Party and those Republicans, and yes some Democrats, who so easily collapse under pressure from the right wing, and those who look at all immigrants in a very jaundiced manner.

The President’s order will not increase the number of illegal immigrants crossing into our nation. It allows those who have been here, have contributed to our nation and who are the parents of children born here the right to stay without fear of deportation and the breakup of families. They will be subject to significant background checks and will be required to pay taxes. They will be eligible for social security. The order applies to the parents of U.S citizens and permanent citizens. The child of those undocumented immigrants must have been born here by November 20, 2014. The Executive order does not apply to individuals with a criminal record.

Let us remember that many of us are the descendants of illegal immigrants who set up camp in what is now the United States of America worked and raised families. The roots of those who are covered by the Executive Order might not be as deep as our roots yet their roots are now firmly implanted in the United States of America. Yes, we were strangers here when our ancestors first arrived illegally or legally.

My friend and former student Deepak Bhargava, called the changes “a massive breakthrough for the immigration-rights movement. Deepak is the Executive Director of the Center for Community Change. In 2013 he was honored here in The Bronx by the Committee for Effective Leadership. Deepak was in my class at PS 108 during the 1977/1978 semester. He and others from that class, such as Mario Cilento, President of the NYS AFL/CIO, went on to great leadership positions in advocating for social justice in our great nation.

NYS Congressman Eliot Engel

NYS Congressman Eliot Engel

Congressman Eliot Engel said: “Any criticism of President Obama’s actions is unfair and unwarranted. House Republicans have steadfastly refused to work with the President, House Democrats, and even their colleagues in the Senate to find a solution to our broken immigration system. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would strengthen our borders, and require undocumented immigrants to undergo a background check and pay back taxes before they qualify for citizenship. That bill calls for responsibility—not amnesty—but the House Republican leadership hasn’t brought it to the floor for a vote.

Left to fix the issue himself, the President’s actions will strengthen our borders while also requiring eligible immigrants pass background checks and pay their taxes. President Obama has not granted these immigrants citizenship or even lawful permanent residence. His deferred action plan simply recognizes the scope of our immigration system’s problems and temporarily defers deportation against these families. If we are genuinely going to fix our immigration system, the Republican leadership will have to pass a bill. House Republicans should be held liable for their inaction, not the millions of families living in fear that they could one day be torn apart. If House Republicans did their job, then the President would not have to do it for them.”

Congressman Jose Serrano, 15th Congressional District

Congressman Jose Serrano, 15th Congressional District

Congressman Jose Serrano said “President Obama’s announcement is a major victory and a historic moment for our community. This is an audacious plan that will help immigrants with deep ties in our country to come out of the shadows, help families stay together, strengthen our borders, and boost our economy. I applaud the President for his courage and leadership on this issue. President Obama is acting within his legal authority and joins every President for the past half century, both Democrats and Republicans, in taking executive action to protect immigrants in our country. “Our borders and communities will also be more secure than ever. The President’s plan directs more resources to border security and seeks to implement a smarter border security strategy focused on criminals, not families. Undocumented immigrants will also have to register, go through background checks, and be held accountable for past actions. This will help promote safer communities everywhere and ensure everyone plays by the same rules. “

In my eyes, the President’s actions were not only legal but a responsibility that he, as our leader, and this nation have to those who are covered by the Executive Order. I wish that the order also provided an actual path to citizenship. It does not. Hopefully that will be done by Congress.

President Obama’s action is not the first when it comes to when it comes to legalizing those who are here without legal papers. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush extended the Reagan era immigration law to include a “family fairness” policy to all spouses and unmarried children of individuals legalized by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Republican Presidents going back to Ronald Reagan have issued Executive Orders to protect those immigrants and their children who were not protected under Congressional legislation.

It appears to me that that many are acting to thwart the President in order to gain favor with the extreme right and to garner support for 2016.They are not acting in a humane manner to protect those immigrants who are here and are living productive lives.