By Stephen Mayer, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
President Obama Friday announced a major change in immigration policy that will allow tens of thousands of young people who may have faced deportation to stay in the United States. The president said the change is not amnesty for those who are here illegally.
"This is a stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely, giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people," Obama said in an afternoon news conference.
Under the new policy, the Obama Administration will stop deporting some illegal immigrants. The program would be open to people younger than 30 years old, who came to the United States before they were 16 years old. If they pose no security threat, were successful students or served in the military, they would be able to apply for a work permit to stay in this country.
Friday's announcement was welcome news for thousands of people who lived with the fear of deportation, including a number in Kansas City.
Kansas City is home to a vibrant Hispanic population, a section of the community with a growing voice.
"Tears of joy came out more than anything," Richard Quinones with the KS/MO Dream Alliance, said of his reaction after hearing the announcement.
Quinones represents the local chapter of the Dream Alliance, a group dedicated to gaining support for immigrant's rights. He said he was overwhelmed when he heard about the latest executive order sent down by Obama. It's designed to ease deportations of illegal immigrants who came to the country as children.
"They left everything behind for me," he said.
It hits close to home for Quinones - his parents left Mexico for the U.S. to save his life when he was facing medical problems as a baby.
He said the immigration reform will encourage others, like him, to plan for a future in their adoptive country.
"What's the point of going to college, what's the point of trying? I might as well just drop out," Quinones said of what some immigrant children may be thinking prior to Friday's announcement.
But Quinones is quick to point to the fact that Friday's small step and his work is far from over.
"It doesn't lead to citizenship, that's what we want. We want to be part of this country, that's what we will continue working for," he said.
The new plan is also causing a lot of controversy from members of both sides of the issue.
Immigration attorney Nathan Bogart spent the day reviewing the new directive from Homeland Security. He was trying to sort through the details of the president's executive order.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Bogart said.
Bogart has been a staunch proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, even starting a blog to help get the word out.
He's seen deportations skyrocket under the Obama Administration – a move that he said hits kids especially hard.
"They've been raised here and for them to have zero access to the American dream is hard to justify," Bogart said.
Bogart said he was pleased to see the president moving to ease deportations of younger illegal immigrants.
Not everyone supports the plan. KCTV5 News made several attempts to contact Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and several law officials, all outspoken on the issue. Calls to Kobach's office and the officials haven't been returned.
But Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quick to issue a response.
"An executive order is of course just a short term matter and can be reversed by subsequent presidents. I'd like to see legislation that deals with this issue," Romney said.
Bogart is now preparing for a flood of calls from those interested in taking part in the new program.
Click here to read what Senator Scott Rupp said about Obama's announcement.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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