Five Million Down, 6.5 Million More To Go

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president-obama-immigration
President Obama announces executive action on immigration from the East Room of the White House on Nov. 20, 2014.

By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 21, 2014: One hundred and two open letters to President Barack Obama, undocumented youth risking arrest and deportation each time they occupied offices of members of Congress; parents who participated in direct actions and sit-ins in front of the White House; countless immigrant activists, and organizations rallying the President and Democrats, all came down to Thursday night, November 20th, and excitement over the long overdue and much publicized executive immigration action announcement.

For some five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Thanksgiving came early. It now means an opportunity to apply for a work permit and travel documents and step out of the so-called shadows and into the light.

For another 6.5 million, however, it was a bitter pill of disappointment and the thought that for yet another holiday, unlike the Pilgrims, they would have to keep trudging along in the shadows of American society with no relief in sight. That includes many with applications in the system, waiting only on an available visa, and the parents of DREAMERS covered by DACA (Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals.)

It’s a bittersweet feeling. But as the old adage goes – better something than nothing at all. So the President’s decision to finally take some action amidst over 500 days of inaction on a Senate Bill by the Republican House of Representatives must be applauded.

Using his executive power, the President stayed conservative, choosing only to expand work authorization for high skilled immigrants who are in line for a green card and allow the undocumented parents of U.S.-born citizen and green card who have been in the country for five years or more, temporary status.
This means once they pass a back ground check, pay back taxes and can prove ‘residency,’ they will be able to get a work permit, travel documents and possibly, a driver’s license depending on the state.

As the President himself said, the focus must be on “felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids.”

This means the continued deportation of criminal immigrants and the boosting of security at the borders to “stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.”

Hopefully, with the President’s order for focus on criminal not non-criminal immigrants, it will mean the 6.5 million who remain at risk can rest a bit easier.
Looking at the glass half-full, it’s important to note as the National Council of La Raza stated that this “is a victory for millions of American families and workers, a victory for our country, and a victory for common sense.”

Now let’s hope the do nothing GOP Congress, headed by the chief ‘do nothinger,’ John Boehner, understands that picking a fight over this issue with the President is only going to bury the party in the annals of history come 2016. The demographic of the U.S.A is changing and there’s nothing that can be done to hold back the tides of old – where the majority were once all White men.

The time is now for Boehner to show real leadership and allow an up or down vote on the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that’s been gathering dust for the past 500 days.

It’s time for the House Republican to prove they have solutions to real problems instead of criticizing everything the President puts forward. Be a party of doers not abusers; a party that shows it’s not xenophobic.

The House GOP and John Boehner can still deliver the reforms the vast majority of Americans support, which include a path to legalization for all undocumented immigrants who have been living in this country for more than five years, have committed no crimes and are willing to pass a background check, pay back taxes and learn English.

Now, more than ever, there must be a renewed commitment to fight for the remaining 6.5 million who remain in the shadows.

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.