Adriana Guzman, 36, was in disbelief after hearing President Barack Obama’s immigration announcement on Thursday. Under Obama’s plan she will be eligible to stay in the country without fear of deportation because her youngest daughter is an American citizen.
But just as soon as she started smiling another reality set in: her 10-year-old daughter will continue to be an undocumented immigrant, at least until she’s 15-years-old and can apply for deferred action for childhood minors.
Her case illustrates what Obama’s executive action means for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It gives relief to some 5 million undocumented residents and is considered a victory for many activist who have been fighting for decades – but it is incomplete. Tech leaders were also likely to find the speech wanting as he left out any specifics on making it easier for tech workers to stay and work in the United States. But for the undocumented already here, the divisions the new policy will create are sharp.
“I don’t know what I am going to tell her,” Guzman said in Spanish. “It gives me strength to keep fighting. She knows that her mom is not going to give up on her.”
At a viewing party at the SEIU Local 87 headquarters in the Tenderloin people were hugging, and chanting: “We are only half way there! We are only half way there.”
It is unknown how many undocumented immigrants live in San Francisco, but 36 percent of residents in the city are foreign-born, according to the American Community Survey. A 2010 study by the Public Policy Institute of California says there are an estimated 30,000 undocumented immigrants in San Francisco.
“It is a historic day,” said Jose Luis Orozco, 55. “We all deserve a piece of the cake.”
While most activists were happy that Obama used his executive power to shield the immigrants he promised to help back in 2008, they won’t let him forget that he is the president who has deported more immigrants than any other president in history, according to ICE figures.
“Every deportation is an executive action,” said Angela Chan, a senior staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “The president has already used his executive authority to deport 1,000 a day. It’s an action that his administration has caused. What we are asking is for this to be his first major step.”
Under Obama executive order some 3.5 million parents of U.S. citizen or permanent residents and 1.5 million people who arrived as children will not be deported. They are eligible for a work permit that lasts three years.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his speech at the White House.
Just like Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order in 2012, it is not a pathway to citizenship and can change if the next president decides to reverse it.
Republicans have threatened to undermine the policy by controlling purse strings and filing lawsuits, but it’s unclear how effective they will be.
“My situation is still precarious,” said Itzel Calbo, 20, who has benefited from deferred action and goes to City College in the Mission. “This is still not over.”
In the short term, activists are worried that many so-called “notarios” or consultants will take advantage of misinformation and charge immigrants money for services that are not necessary.
“Every time there is something like this, there is fraud,” said Lorena Melgarejo, a Mission resident. “They were going nuts saying ‘give me $5000 ’ and it opens it up to unscrupulous notarios to take advantage of the community.”
As for Guzman, Obama’s announcement makes her feel empowered. She will no longer have to stand getting paid less than regular citizens or being fired for having no papers.
“I don’t feel so scared anymore,” She said. “Thanks Obama.”