Immigrants rally in Albuquerque to mark deportation rule change
Posted at: 08/15/2012 2:20 PM
| Updated at: 08/15/2012 7:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, Eyewitness News 4
These are historic days for thousands of illegal immigrants in New Mexico who suddenly have a chance to stay in the U.S. and work and go to school without fear of deportation.
The federal government calls it "deferred action", and it means a chance for young immigrants under 30 years of age to stay in the States without being deported for at least two years.
President Barack Obama made it happen, not by law, but by signing a controversial executive order back in June.
We're undocumented, we're not afraid," immigrants chanted at a rally at the University of New Mexico Wednesday afternoon, celebrating day one of the opportunity to sign up for the new program. " Y aqui estamos y no nos vamos! (We're here and we're not going!)".
Many Republicans in Congress call it backdoor amnesty, but President Obama denies that, pointing out that it is not legal status and it is not permanent residency and it is not citizenship. But to the young immigrants at the rally, and their families, it's something huge.
"It's a sense of relief from this fear of being undocumented, and fear of being deported," said UNM student Udell Calcadillas Chavez. "Getting that sense of relief is really nice."
"I'm not saying that this is the complete answer or solution to our problems," said Luzhilda Campos, a student at Santa Fe Community College. "However it does give me some relief to say, you know what - we have something and we are very grateful and thankful for that."
"This is gonna enable many of our students in New Mexico to be able to be living in New Mexico without fear, to get a work permit," immigration activist Christopher Ramirez told the crowd. "However it's not the end. There's still much work to do."
Activists would like to revive the failed "DREAM" Act and convince Congress to pass it. That would make the deferred action harder to undo. If Obama isn't re-elected, a new president could wipe out the program with a stroke of a pen - just the way Obama brought it into existence, by executive order.
To qualify, immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 years of age, must be under 30 now, must be in school or working or serving in the military, and must have no major criminal convictions. The Department of Homeland Security is handling the whole thing.
Immigration activists said there may be close to 13,000 people in New Mexico who could be eligible for the program.
If they qualify - and pay a $465 fee - they can defer their deportation for at least two years and possibly longer if they reapply.
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