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Executive Action Gets Reaction at Home

Just how tough are things for President Barack Obama?

At an event he was heckled by his own special guest who was sitting behind him during his meeting at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park.

Only minutes into Obama’s speech about his executive order on immigration, a young woman, who was holding a sign, interrupted the president by shouting “Obama stop deportations now!”

Maria Gonzalez, 26, from Mexico City has been living illegally in Chicago since she was 8. Now, as a result of Obama’s executive order, she and her family are at higher risk for being deported.

Gonzalez is a member of Undocumented Illinois, a non-profit, and just graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

A visually emotional and tearful Gonzalez said she couldn’t understand why Obama didn’t go further with his executive order.

“He could have included deferred action for all,” Gonzalez said.

President Obama at Copernicus Center. Photo by Michael Matthew Esparza

Obama outlined his executive order plan to enact measures to defer the deportation of 4 million immigrants in a televised address from the White House on Thursday, Nov. 20.

The order will offer undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who’ve resided in the country for at least five years under temporary legal status.

“This will remove the constant threat of deportation,” Obama said Thursday night.

This action will allow immigrants to be eligible for work permits and require them to pay taxes.

It will also expand on the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed immigrants under 30, who arrived as children, to apply for a deportation deferral.

The major change to the DACA program is it will now qualify immigrants older than 30.

What this executive action will not do is grant amnesty for immigrants here illegally.

It does help clear a path for millions of undocumented immigrants but falls short of offering access to the Affordable Care Act for newly protected immigrants.

The order will also not extend protection to parents of young immigrants who participated in the DACA program or expand the existing H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreigners.

A more detailed description on Obama’s executive order can be found at the Washington Post website.

Lawrence Benito, 44, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), said Obama has been consistent with what he has said in past speeches.

“Certainly the news was on one hand a good step forward,” Benito said. “But we also know that many people were left out.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who arrived just moments before Obama got on stage, has been working with Benito and the coalition to provide information to implement the new executive order, according to reports.

potus8 President Obama reacts to heckler at Copernicus Center. Photo by Michael Matthew Esparza
President Obama reacts to heckler at Copernicus Center. Photo by Michael Matthew Esparza

Emanuel, who is up for re-election in February, has worked with the ICIRR. He’s been working with the group to make Chicago a more inclusive and less hostile place for illegal immigrants, according to its website.

The website is called “IL [Illinois] is Ready,” and is available in five different languages.

“We’re going to continue to fight to make sure people get the information they need for those that want to apply,” Benito said.

More than 2 million people have been deported under the president’s administration and this is too many, Benito added.

Marzena Szwarc, 55, an employment counselor of the Polish American Association (PAA), said she feels Obama’s executive order will bring about change for the jobless.

“We have been contacted by people who are looking for a job, but they don’t have papers,” Szwarc said. “They are not able to work because our employers are looking for people who are legally here.”

The immigrants who come to Chicago come for a better life but are scared to even drive. Many of these people who don’t have papers have families and are unable to work to provide for them, Szwarc said.

The PAA offers a wide range of employment services to job-seekers as well as employers under funding provided by the city of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services and Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, according to its website.

After Tuesday’s even with tears in her eyes, Gonzalez quickly walked through the bitter cold across Lawrence Avenue and joined her family, who stood outside waiting for her in the parking lot.

A tearful embrace between them reassured the family she was safe after her emotional outburst at the meeting.

“I was prepared for anything today!” Gonzalez said.


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