US President Barack Obama’s immigration plan, unveiled on Thursday November 20th, eases the threat of deportation for some 4.7 million immigrants, many of them Mexican, who are in the United States without legal documents.
“I want to publicly recognize the President of the United States for yesterday’s announcement,” Peña Nieto told a conference in Mexico. “These measures bring relief to principally Mexican immigrants.”
“Those who will benefit will be migrants of Mexican origin who have been living in the United States for years … This is an act of justice which recognizes the great contribution of millions of Mexicans to the development of our neighbor.”
There are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Obama’s plan would let some 4.4 million who are parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents and who have been in the country for at least five years remain in the country temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents.
Peña Nieto said he had instructed Mexico’s consular service to help those Mexicans who wish to take advantage of the reform.
In 2008, 12.7 million immigrants from Mexico resided in the U.S., and more than half were undocumented, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Overall, 11 percent of everyone born in Mexico is currently living in the U.S.
Pew said more than 31 million in the U.S. identify with Mexico. Nearly 31 million Latinos in the U.S. self-identify as being of Mexican origin, representing two-thirds of all U.S. Latinos. Pew said they are the nation’s largest Latino origin group and its youngest with the median age of 25.
The majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. come from Mexico and Central America.
Central American leaders praised Obama’s reform actions but urged U.S. lawmakers to create lasting security to millions of undocumented residents in the U.S. through permanent immigration reform legislation. Obama’s executive action is vulnerable to repeal under a new president, and many of the reforms are only effective for two to three years.
“This temporary relief is a great step in the right direction from the United States to resolve the migratory issues of 11 million people, and so we urge Congress to permanently resolve their status by approving a deep immigration reform,” the office of Honduran President Juan Hernandez said in a statement on Friday.
More than 1 million Hondurans live in the United States, most of them illegally, the statement said, and the Obama plan “sends a powerful message of solidarity with Latin America.”
With 100,000 Guatemalans livening in the U.S., Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina urged his people not to fall for misinformation spread by people smugglers or “coyotes.”
Rumors of a U.S. amnesty was one of the reasons given for the surge in mothers and children arriving from Central America at the U.S. border this summer, which sparked widespread protest, delayed immigrant reforms and had the House of Representatives introducing and passing a bill that stepped up spending on border control rather than practical solutions for immigration reform.
In September, Central American leaders presented a plan to boost economic growth in the region and cut illegal immigration to the United States. But the plan hinged on major spending on infrastructure and energy projects in the impoverished region, according to Reuters.
El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez also saw Obama’s immigration rule changes as a positive step but wants a more permanent solution for immigrant reform.
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