Mixed reaction to Obama admin's deportation policy

August 19, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The new policy will give them the chance to stay in this country and apply for a work permit.

Some are not happy with the change.

More than 300,000 people were removed from the United States in each of the last two years. Immigration courts are jammed. This move comes as a move to provide some relief to the courts and to certain categories of undocumented immigrants, including individuals brought to the U.S. as children, undocumented spouses of U.S military personnel and immigrants who have no criminal record.

"My roots are here, my friends are here, my life is here. My community is here. To have it all take away would be a nightmare. I just hope to be able to pursue my goals and my dreams," said 25-year old Alaa Mukahhal.

Mukahhal has almost no memory of Kuwait, where she was born, or Jordan, where she is a citizen. She was brought to the U.S. by her parents at the age of 7.

Mukahhal is also one of 300,000 people currently under deportation proceedings in the U.S., and therefore, she is likely to benefit from a decision announced Thursday by the Obama administration that launches a case-by-case review of all deportation cases currently pending.

"This decision by the administration is an important small step forward, where we spend our resources protecting our borders, protecting the people of the United States and not destroying families that shouldn't be destroyed," said Joshua Hoyt.

The decision was applauded by immigration rights groups and people like Mukahhal, who despite having a degree in architecture is unable to practice because of her immigration status.

"I take meager jobs," Mukahhal said. "I've worked at restaurants for pay that's just below minimum wage...it gives me some hope. It's certainly a first step forward, but all it does is provide temporary relieve and nothing permanent, and we're looking for something more."

The administration's move comes at a time when Congress has rebuffed the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented college students to remain in the country, as well as other immigration initiatives.

But critics of the decision say the president is doing an end-run around Congress.

"You can't be illegal or be half-way illegal," said Rick Biesada of Chicago Minutemen. "I feel sorry for a lot of these people. I understand they're hard-working people and only coming to better themselves, but they should have thought have that before coming here and they should have entered the country the right way."

In announcing the decision Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the process will allow additional resources to be focused on border security and the removal of public safety threats.

Immigration is a critical issue for the president as he prepares for re-election. He won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008 by promising to deliver comprehensive immigration reform that is yet to happen.

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