Local Undocumented Immigrants Step Out of Shadows
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Young undocumented immigrants from across the Grand Valley are joining thousands of others around the nation, gathering paperwork to obtain temporary work permits.
Over 100 people gathered at St. Joseph Church in Grand Junction to learn more about President Barack Obama's immigration policy change.
The bold policy change is giving young immigrants the opportunity to apply for work permits and deportation deferrals for a two-year period.
To be eligible, they must have arrived in America at age 16 or younger and must currently be under 30 years of age. They must also have no criminal history, be enrolled in school, or have graduated from high school or served in the military.
Daniel Talavera, the co-coordinator of the Hispanic Affairs Project, said, "You wouldn't even realize they were born in a different country cause they probably don't even speak their native tongue very well."
A 16-year-old undocumented immigrant who referred to herself as Maria, said, "Living in fear that although you haven't really been outside of the United States, you've never been where you're originally from, that you'll be sent there, exiled there."
In June, President Obama stunned the nation with an immigration policy change.
Nicole Bernal Ruiz, also with the Hispanic Affairs Project, said, "Immigrant children that were brought here as minors have the opportunity to apply for a work permit."
Those who have lived in the country for nearly their entire lives now have a chance of getting the same privileges as citizens.
Thomas Acker, a Spanish professor at Colorado Mesa University, said, "These students have been productive members of our communities. They've studied, they've worked, they've been doing the right things all along."
"I'm just really happy to have the opportunity to be someone who gives to the community, because I really do feel like an American," said Maria.
However, some people are not convinced that this policy change is right or fair to Americans. Phyllis Hunsinger, secretary of the Mesa County Republicans, said, "That student, that young person can hold their parents accountable, but they shouldn't be trying to hold the American taxpayer accountable."
Many against the immigration policy change hope that a new president will bring new change. "The United States Congress and the president have an obligation to represent the interest of American citizens," Hunsinger said.
Despite the controversy, many immigrants believe that the country is heading in the right direction.