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Immigrants Hopeful Obama Will Push for Immigration Reform in Second Term PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 24 January 2013 06:41


It was so brief you could have missed it. But for immigrants anxious about their or their family's undocumented status, President Barack Obama's mention of this community during his inauguration speech on Monday, Jan. 21, was enough to spark plenty of hope.

"Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country," said the President during his speech, exciting some 20 people watching on a big screen in the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) near downtown Los Angeles.

One of those present was Saira Barajas, 21, a student at Los Angeles Valley College who benefited from Obama's Deferred Action (DACA) program last year. The program enables all students between 16 and 31- years-old to remain in the country for the next two years regardless of their immigration status. "I'm very proud that he mentioned us. It gave me hope he will move forward with immigration reform," said Barajas, a Van Nuys resident.


Saira Barajas

"He needs to make DACA permanent and create a path to citizenship for everybody, not just students. Youth are not the only ones who have dreams," she said. Allison Luengas, 19, is another seeking "real change" and "a revolution" in Obama's second term so that "everybody can be the same and have rights." "I'm a citizen but my family and many of my friends aren't, and I hope he works for immigration reform," Luengas said.

Luengas, who attends Santa Monica City College – and who voted (for Obama) for the first time in the Nov.6 election – said she's lived with the fear of her parents being deported since she was a little girl.

"It's really scary for me. When I was 7-years-old, my parents would talk to me about how I would have to take care of my younger brothers if they got deported," she said.

Obama's words also brought renewed hope for Isabel Medina, who is undocumented and has lived in the country for the past 16 years.

"He said that he would do an immigration reform, if he was reelected," Medina said. "We are counting on him, the same way he counted on us when he needed it," referencing the overwhelming Latino support for Obama in the November election to help him defeat Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

But while the President's words on the screen created a positive vibe for those present, an empty chair in front of the screen reminded everyone about Obama's lack of action about immigration reform during his first term, which was marked by the highest deportation rate under any administration.

There was a small sign in the chair with the number "1,580,359" – the number of deported immigrants during Obama's first four years – as well as the names of several Latino families split by these deportations placed around the number, reminding of the need to keep fighting for the equality Obama mentioned over and over during his inauguration speech, said Angelica Salas, head of CHIRLA.

"Many of our families have been destroyed by the lack of immigration reform. We have to continue to fight until there's equality for all immigrants in this country," Salas said. "We can't have another term with 1.5 million in deportations. That's a shame for this nation," Salas said, noting that CHIRLA and other pro-immigrant groups will continue to pressure Obama to make sure he doesn't forget his promise.

Salas said pro-immigrant groups will convene for a massive march in Washington D.C. on April 10 to push for immigration reform.

"We'll be sending a delegation there to make our voices heard," she said.

Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), also pledged to work for immigration reform. "We will work with President Obama to seize this moment in history and restore justice in our immigration system. As Dr. (Martin Luther) King once instructed us, 'The time is always right to do what is right.' The time to do common sense immigration reform is now," Medina said.

North Hollywood resident Gabriel Dario Orozco supports these efforts.

"He promised to work on immigration reform and he got the Latino vote so that he can do that," said Orozco, a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 January 2013 06:46