Kerbin Delcid and Rodolfo Pulido are both 20, both came to America at age 6 with parents, and both are legal residents.
But both Delcid and Pulido say they are familiar with the plights of other local youths who came to America with parents who bypassed legal immigration procedures.
The men said undocumented youths end up doing hard jobs for low wages, or leaving the U.S.
“My girlfriend had to go back to Mexico,” Delcid said.
Delcid, Pulido and others in the local Hispanic community said they welcome a policy change announced Friday by President Barack Obama. Obama said he is easing enforcement of immigration laws, offering hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the opportunity to stay in the country and work.
Under the administration plan, to be carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
Obama said the change would become effective immediately to “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”
Immediately embraced by many Hispanics, the extraordinary step touched off an election-year confrontation with congressional Republicans. Sen. Mark Rubio, a Florida Republican, declared the new policy violates the Constitution.
The policy change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the “DREAM Act,” congressional legislation that would establish a path toward citizenship for young people who came to the United States illegally but who attend college or join the military.
From the White House Rose Garden, Obama declared, “This is the right thing to do.”
“Let’s be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix,” he said.
Many will benefitPulido, a North Charleston resident and mechanic at Los Amigos automotive shop on Remount Road, said most local Hispanics applaud the immigration policy changes. He also said some Hispanics won’t care about the changes.
“As long as they want to work, I think it’s a good thing,” said Pulido, who was born in Mexico. But he added he’s not convinced that all who are here illegally want to work and be good citizens. “Sometimes they do care and sometimes they don’t. Some people are really bad and are just here to make trouble. They drink and drive drunk,” he said.
Delcid, who was born in El Salvador and now works at Esmeralda Super Market on Remount Road, said the change will benefit a lot of lives. He said he’s seen friends frozen out of good jobs because they lacked documentation.
“Some of my friends graduated high school, and they could not do anything,” he said. “They wound up going back to the country they came from, and some of them couldn’t even talk Spanish.”
But others stayed, and ended up in physical labor, making less than minimum wages.
“A lot of people don’t want to do the hard jobs, and Hispanic people end up doing these jobs because they don’t have work permits,” Delcid said.
He said some who left the U.S. came back later with student visas. But, he added, the process for getting visas to come here from a Latin country is a long one.
“For awhile, I heard, it was backed up to 1990,” Delcid said.
Delcid welcomed the policy change, calling it a fair thing to do for youths who are not responsible for their parents’ violations of immigration laws. But Delcid said he can see that the president’s action is a ploy for the Hispanic vote.
“It’s just to get votes, but it benefits people,” he explained.
Jacqueline Nunez, 18, of Summerville, works at La Tapatia bakery on Yeamans Hall Road in Hanahan, and was born in the U.S. as a daughter of immigrants. She also welcomes Obama’s policy change, which she said will permit youths here without papers “to earn money and have a better future. That’s the purpose of everyone that comes here,” she said.
She also said Obama’s move looks politically motivated. “He might be doing that to get people to vote for him. He’s trying to get everyone to be on his side,” Nunez said.
Though not Hispanics, two other local men welcomed the immigration policy change, but with reservations.
“As long as they pay taxes,” stated a man who identified himself only as Wayne, an unemployed chef from Hanahan. He said America is a nation of immigrants.
“That’s what we were founded on. We all came here from somewhere else, so how can we keep them out,” he said.
Tim Smith, a truck driver from Hanahan, said he approves of the policy change “as long as there are not too many of them and they don’t start taking jobs from other people.” He said he prefers that not all those granted work permits are Spanish speaking. “It should be divided up,” he said.
Smith said he fears “Some companies will lay off their older, American workers so they can hire the new people. They don’t have to pay them as much or give them benefits,” he said.
Rubio’s policy similarThe announcement by Obama comes one week before he plans to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney is to speak to the group on Thursday.
“Many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in a memorandum describing the administration’s action. “Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
The policy closely tracks a proposal being drafted by Rubio, a potential vice presidential running mate for Romney, as an alternative to the DREAM Act, formally the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act.
While many Republican lawmakers decried the Obama administration’s move, Rubio offered a tempered response.
“Today’s announcement will be welcome news for many of these kids desperate for an answer, but it is a short-term answer to a long-term problem,” Rubio said in a statement. “And by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term one.”
Midway through his remarks, Obama was interrupted by a reporter from a conservative online publication, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, who shouted, “Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?” Clearly irritated, Obama said that he was explaining the policy, not looking for an argument, and that the change was the “right thing to do for the American people.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Immigration policy change
Under the Obama administration plan, about 800,000 illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they:Arrived in the United States before the age of 16Are younger than 30Have been in the U.S. at least five continuous yearsHave no criminal historyGraduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GEDServed in the military