President Barack Obama announced his plan to take executive action on immigration during a primetime speech Thursday night, and it’s been getting mixed reaction in Maryland. The president’s plan will keep 5 million illegal immigrants from being deported.
“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility and give their kids a better future?” the president asked during the speech.
Obama laid out his plan in which immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. for at least five years and who have children who were born here get to stay and work. Immigrants brought to the U.S. as children get to stay, too.
The president insists his actions are lawful, but Republicans disagree, including the only Republican from Maryland in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Harris said he doesn’t know yet how Republicans may respond when the party takes control of the Senate next year, but lawmakers may not be able to act at all.
“He hasn’t consulted with Congress. It’s going to take a couple of days to look through the entire executive order, but it looks like he’s done it in a way that would make it very difficult to defund through the normal appropriations channels, so we may just have to wait for the courts to undo this,” Harris told 11 News.
Harris said the current immigration laws should be enforced.
“I’m disappointed with the president. The bottom line is immigrants come to this country like my parents came to this country seeking a nation of laws. I think what he has done is undermined the rule of law in the United States with this executive order,” Harris said.
Republican state Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who represents portions of Baltimore and Harford counties, called the president’s actions “so over-reaching. I guess I’m not quite shocked, but still shocked that he has taken this step without Congress.”
Meanwhile, immigrant families in Baltimore are celebrating the president’s action. Many gathered at Casa de Maryland headquarters on East Fayette Street in Baltimore on Thursday night.
The advocacy group estimates about 100,000 undocumented Hispanics in Maryland will now be eligible for a three-year work permit.
The Uribe family watched the president’s address Thursday night with hope and anticipation, saying they think the executive order is better than getting nothing.
Nathaly Uribe Robledo had mixed emotions as she listened to the president outline his executive order on immigration.
“For my family, specifically, we’re not content. We are relieved,” she said.
Peter Uribe and his wife, Marlene, arrived in the U.S. from Chile with a young daughter 19 years ago. Their other daughter was born in this country. Peter Uribe, whose job is in home construction, said he considers himself a hard worker.
“Sometimes I told my boss I was undocumented,” he said.
Marlene Uribe said she is pleased that the executive order grants an estimated 100,000 undocumented people in Maryland eligibility for a three-year work permit.
“It’s just three years, but three years I’m going to live, like, free — not scared. Sometimes I’m scared the police stop me, and (I worry they’ll) deport me,” Marlene Uribe said.
“I know my parents will not feel this fear on their back every single day when they wake up to go to work, when they drive us to school, so that’s definitely a relief for us to live stress-free for at least three years,” Uribe Robledo said.
Despite the celebration, officials with Casa de Maryland said they’re disappointed with the president’s order, which may not allow some immigrants who are parents of protected Dream Act children to get temporary work permits.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement Friday in support, saying, “This action will strengthen cities like Baltimore by keeping families together, further growing our economies and fostering community trust in law enforcement and government.”
WBAL-TV 11 News reporter Barry Simms contributed to this report