Immigrants expressed disappointment on Feb. 17, after a federal judge put a hold on President Barack Obama’s plan to protect more than 4 million people living illegally in the U.S. from deportation. But many said they haven’t lost hope.
A look at immigrant views of Obama’s programs:
Growing up in Guatemala, Keyla Betancurth used to watch her single mother cry at night because she could not afford to buy food for her children. Betancourt left school at 12 to work at a bakery to help. Then, at 17, she took a bigger step, paying a smuggler to get her to the U.S.
“I wanted a better future for myself and for my mom,” said the 28-year-old, who wants to apply for Obama’s program for the parents of Americans. “Now, I’m a mother, and I want the best for my kids. I don’t want my kids to suffer like I did.”
Betancurth, who has three young children, has been a farmworker in California and Iowa and, since moving to Denver three years ago, a maid. Her husband, who is from Honduras, paints houses.
For both, steady, well-paid work is difficult to find because they lack Social Security numbers. She wants to return to school to study hairdressing and, one day, open her own salon.
“My big dream is to study,” she said.
Claudia Ramon, 46, said she and her daughters did not give each other presents this past Christmas because they were saving their money to pay the application fees for Obama’s immigration program.
With the delay, the family now plans on exchanging small gifts today (Feb. 18).
“We feel powerless but not defeated, sure that it will all work out,” said Ramon, who cleans homes for a living in Houston but was a psychologist in her native Colombia.
She said she lives in fear, afraid a simple traffic ticket will take her away from her family.
She recalled an accident five years ago when a police officer asked her for her driver’s license. She told the officer that she didn’t have it and that she had been on her way to take her daughter Isabella, who has Down syndrome, to physical therapy. The officer let her go with a warning.
“I know there are good people. I know there are people who understand the human reasons why we are here,” she said.
Ericka Alvarez, 35, was planning on applying this week for Obama’s program for those brought to the country illegally as children.
She and her husband want to buy a mobile home in Santa Clarita, California, where they can live with their two children. They have saved the $10,000 deposit and qualify for a loan, but the park owner won’t let them in because they don’t have Social Security numbers, she said.
Alvarez also worries about boarding a plane to a training session for her job as a nutritional-supplement saleswoman, because she carries only her Mexican passport. She had hoped Obama’s program would change that before her next trip.
“I’m thinking about whether I should go or not,” she said.
Jessica Nuñez, 40, and her husband have been in the United States for 18 years and have three U.S.-born children.
Originally from Santana, in the Mexican state of Sonora, Nuñez lives in Tucson, Arizona, and has been gathering the paperwork to apply to the new program this year.
Nuñez said life without legal status has been tough, especially when family emergencies arise in Mexico and she can’t go back.
“It’s like they have our hands tied,” she said.
Sabine Durden, 57, welcomed the judge’s ruling putting a halt to Obama’s immigration programs.
Durden came to the United States from Germany more than two decades ago legally as the wife of an American citizen. For many years, the Moreno Valley, California resident questioned the U.S. government’s policies on immigration, but after her 30-year-old son was struck and killed by a driver who was in the country illegally and who had a prior criminal record, she became an activist.
“It didn’t have to happen,” she said.
While she voted for Obama, Durden said she was disappointed by his recent programs on immigration.
“I am happy that finally somebody put a foot down and said we can’t just do whatever we want, not even the president,” she said.