Local leaders: Obama’s executive order just a start

Published 7:21 am Sunday, November 23, 2014

While local leaders and advocates are pleased to see some national progress on immigration, many hope President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions to delay deportations for 5 million residents mean Congress will address immigration reform sooner than later.

“I don’t know if it’s a longterm answer,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “It’s a start, anyway.”

The actions will mean undocumented parents and children who are in the U.S. may not face deportation as quickly as felons and other residents here illegally. The order won’t go into effect for several months, however, as undocumented residents must apply for the special status.

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Yet the executive order doesn’t include parents of children who already have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which protects undocumented children who came to the U.S.

“There’s such mixed feelings,” said Jeffrey Jurewicz, a Rochester-based Latino advocate. “On the one hand, there are advocates and many people in the community who are thrilled that Obama is finally, finally taking action. It’s unfortunate that his legal authority doesn’t extend to DACA families as well. Many families are left out.”

Local attorney Dan Donnelly said he’s already seen some interest from clients in the order, but he doesn’t believe the action will affect many people in the area.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a real significant rush, simply because we don’t have the numbers,” he said.

Yet advocates like Jurewicz are cautioning residents to wait for more news about the order.

Some people may take advantage of undocumented immigrants by promising paperwork and making off with payments.

“It’s important for the community to know the application process hasn’t started yet,” Jurewicz said.

Congress is expected to address immigration once it reconvenes in January, but it’s unknown how Republicans will counter Obama’s proposal. Obama has stated his hopes Congress will pass a bill to reform the U.S.’s immigration system in reaction to his order.

Local leaders hope Congress will do the same, especially since immigration became a hot-button topic in Mower County over the past few years. Stiehm said he hasn’t heard about immigration as much this year, but he knows people are looking to government officials to solve the problem.

“It wasn’t going to be solved on a municipal level, it had to be solved on a national level,” he said.