On Friday, the President made it easier for young people who are in Iowa illegally to stay in Iowa and work legally.
“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people."
President Obama says he will hand out work permits to illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 and 30. They must have been in the country at least five years, have no criminal history, and graduated from high school.
The President's plan would allow them to work or go to college for two years while they work to get their citizenship. Immigration activists in Iowa say they’ve been waiting for this for years.
“They didn't make that decision, their parents made it for them to offer them a better life,” says Sandra Sanchez of the Iowa Immigrant Voice Program.
Sanchez says there's a population of illegal Iowa immigrants that are being punished for no reason. Sanchez has been advocating for illegal immigrants for nearly 20 years. She says its young people, brought here by their parents at an early age, who suffer needlessly.
“By all means they are Americans. They actually identify as Americans. They don't know anything about the country of their origin and they speak perfect English. They are Americans.
Here's the problem: once young illegal immigrants graduate from high school, they can't work, go to college or join the military, leaving an educated population with no future.
“It causes stress. This would allow young people to come out from the dark from hiding and to be productive citizens,” says Joe Henry of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
LULA helps young people earn their citizenship, but they say that can take up to 16 years.
“Can you imagine being a young person here? You have been here since a young age and you speak perfect English and have great friends but you have this fear you might get deported?”
Immigration activists estimate there are between 50 to 75,000 illegal immigrants in Iowa. They say about 15,000 will benefit from the President's plan. However, that plan only gives young illegal immigrants two years relief. What they really want is a long term solution.
“The immigration system is broken and it needs to be fixed. Congress needs to do something so the parties come together,” says Hand.
Congress did vote on the "Dream Act" last year which would have given young illegal immigrants the opportunity to work towards permanent residency if they got a college degree. Last year, that act failed in the Senate by just one vote.
Not everyone here in Iowa is happy with the President's announecement. Ryan Rhodes, a Tea Party activist, says the President “proved he has no regard for laws that are in place and the legislative process. He says the process is broken but that doesn’t mean he can break the laws like he’s doing. He’s not focusing on jobs and the economy for Americans.”