On the evening of November 20, some 200 immigrants and advocates gathered in SEIU Local 32BJ’s Chelsea headquarters to watch President Obama announce his much-anticipated executive action on immigration in prime time. The media had been called in, pizza and beverages had been bought and American flags and art supplies had been set out. As Obama spoke, some of the children in the room made signs with messages about immigration. A pair hanging on the wall read, “Gracias, Señor Presidente.”
After Obama finished describing his offer to provide temporary relief from deportation for some 4 million of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants — so long as they “get right with the law” — he proclaimed, “We were strangers once too.” The line prompted scattered applause from the crowd, but the mood was uncertain.
It reflected the ambiguous nature of Obama’s reforms. He is extending temporary relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children that have been in the United States for at least five years, as well as to an expanded set of childhood arrivals not covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program of 2012. But the gesture excludes more than 6 million undocumented people, and leaves them — along with more than 13 million green card holders and countless future immigrants — even more vulnerable to the vagaries of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).[…]
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