Immigration plan draws cheers, criticism across US

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2014 8:47 AM
Immigration plan draws cheers, criticism across US

Thousands of immigrant-rights activists, families and elected officials cheered across the country as President Barack Obama announced on television his plan for relief from deportations for about 5 million people.

But after the initial burst of emotion Thursday evening at hastily organized watch parties and in living rooms, many said Obama's plan was just the first step in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrant families pointed out the plan would only cover about 5 million of the 11 million without legal status, leaving many families and individuals in limbo.

Republicans slammed the president's action as an overreach, while advocates — including Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and California Gov. Jerry Brown — praised Obama's plan.

Not everyone was happy with Obama's action. A couple of protesters held "no amnesty" signs outside a New York union office where supporters watched the speech.

A snapshot of reactions across the country:

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"This will definitely help our family no longer live in fear, fear that we will have to drop everything if our parents are deported. But there is still fear, because this is a temporary, and we need something permanent," said Isaura Pena, 20, of Portland, whose father and mother lack legal status.

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"This is a great day for farmworkers. It's been worth the pain and sacrifice," said Jesus Zuniga, 40, who picks tomatoes in California's Central Valley and watched the speech at a union gathering in Fresno.

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"Simply stated, you're the only singular person in this entire country that can advance or adopt meaningful immigration reform. By that very definition then, it is your singular failure alone as to why we do not yet have reform, why America continues to be at risk, and new crimes and new victims are mounting each and every day in every single state," said Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, addressing the president directly in a video posted by his office Wednesday on YouTube. Jones vowed to crusade against illegal immigration after the shooting rampage last month by a Mexican man with a long criminal history who was in the country illegally.

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"They're going to have a chance to be what they want to be and get an education," said Maria Perez, 41, of Fresno, California. She is in the country legally, but she often worries about her nieces, ages 16 and 18, who aren't. With the president's speech, she feels hope that her nieces now can achieve her dreams.

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"I believe that is a good step forward, but again I look at the other side and I believe he is maybe acting too rash. I don't know why he is doing it without the consent of Congress. ... I think that is creating too much dissension in Congress where it is already, and I don't know if that is necessarily a good thing. I think for a lot of people — especially those who are here undocumented — it is great, but at some point we have to draw the line," said community activist Bob Hernandez of Wichita, Kansas.

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"I don't think it helps because it's going to create friction with the new Congress that's Republican. While I think it's probably the wrong thing for him to do, there's a possibility it starts a dialogue and pushes the Republicans to move more quickly," Overstock.com board chairman Jonathan Johnson said at his company's Salt Lake City, Utah, headquarters.

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"I am a mother of Dreamers (the children who benefited from Obama's Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.) They are not citizens. It was a great disappointment to hear I won't benefit from it. It's bland. He gave us a little taste but it had no taste," said Rosa Mejia, an immigrant in El Paso, Texas, who has been living in the US since 1999.

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Abel Rodriguez, of Phoenix, said Obama's proposal could mean that he and his wife would be able to visit their family in Mexico without fear of not being able to return to the U.S. or getting separated from their daughters. "I have not seen my family for 10 years. I have two grandsons that I don't see," Rodriguez said.

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"We have a lot of unemployed Americans right now, and I don't understand why unemployed Americans can't be hired to do the jobs these illegals are doing," said John Wilson, who works in contract management in New York City.

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"This is not a partisan issue. When the bluest of blue states — like Oregon, for example — vote overwhelmingly to prohibit illegal aliens from obtaining drivers licenses, it speaks volumes about the widespread lack of support for President Obama's immigration policies. The American people have spoken, and time and again they have been ignored," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said.