For centuries, millions of immigrants came to America in search of a better opportunity to provide for their families. The American Dream became darker when immigrants were forced to live in fear of deportation and being separated from their loved ones. As a result, undocumented immigrants became the most vulnerable and exploited workers in America because they were compelled to work in extremely dangerous conditions with no labor laws to protect them. Our broken immigration system became a loophole companies and employers took advantage of. Both undocumented workers and U.S. workers paid the price. Exploitation of immigrant workers hurts families, drives down wages for all workers, and halts the growth of the economy.
Immigrants are the backbone of America’s economy and contribute to our society in every way to keep our country running. President Obama’s decision to provide administrative relief demonstrates that immigrant family voices and struggles matter in America. This action will generate new tax revenue from immigrants who now have access to fair wage jobs while they continue to pay their fair share in taxes and contribute to the economy. More importantly, it gives undocumented individuals and their families the dignity and respect they deserve.
President Obama’s plan for Executive Action primarily includes the newly proposed Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) Program that will allow 4.1 million parents (of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents) to apply for differed action and be granted 3 years of status with work authorization if they meet certain qualifications . In addition, the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program will be expanded to include an additional 270,000 immigrants through elimination of the age cap, moving the entry date requirement before January 1, 2010 and granting DACA for three years.
Ultimately, this executive action will help millions of people work without fear. No longer will these individuals be afraid to speak up against employer abuse and be victimized by undesirable work conditions. Immigrant workers can now come out of the shadows and demand the rights they are entitled to. “Hearing President Obama outline his plan for administrative relief for 4.9 million immigrants gives us hope and reason to celebrate this historic victory, but we must continue to fight with all our might for a comprehensive immigration legislation that is inclusive of all immigrants and their families,” said Johanna Hester, APALA National President from Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. “Our collective grassroots organizing efforts and demands to provide relief for millions of immigrants pressured the President to act on immigration, but we still have more work to do.”
As immigrants and organizers across the country celebrate this significant accomplishment, only Congress can pass comprehensive immigration reform that permanently fixes the broken immigration system. There are still 6 million undocumented immigrants whom do not qualify for Executive Action. These individuals are condemned to continue living in the shadows and be victimized by employer retaliation, wage theft exploitation, as well possible deportation. We need Republicans to take immigration action and work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill to fix our country’s broken immigration system to be inclusive of all immigrants. “President Obama’s plan for administrative relief is a step in the right direction, but the fight for comprehensive immigration reform continues,” said Gregory Cendana, APALA Executive Director. “APALA will continue to advocate, organize, and champion the rights of immigrants at the local, state, and federal level.”