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Undergrads Welcome Obama Immigration Order with Reservations

By Quynh-Nhu Le, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: Nov. 25, 2014, at 12:00 a.m.

Undocumented students and immigration reform advocates welcomed President Barack Obama’s recent move to offer additional protection to undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, but said the order falls short of providing respite to many undocumented immigrants.

Obama announced Thursday an executive order that will allow an estimated 4 million people to apply for work permits and protection from deportation.

Many Harvard students drew on personal experiences in the days following the announcement to argue that the new program will have a positive impact on undocumented students and families.

Enrique Ramirez ’16, author of several Crimson op-eds about the undocumented student experience, said the announcement would provide his parents protection from deportation.

“My youngest sibling was born here in the U.S., so [my parents] will be able to apply under the program,” Ramirez said. “I’m really happy about it.”

Lizbeth Hernandez ’16, the current director of Harvard College Act on a Dream, a student group that aims to extend educational opportunities to undocumented students, said the program will lessen the burdens placed on students with undocumented parents.

“Many [Act on a Dream members] have to contribute to their families back home and keep their parents on their minds constantly,” said Hernandez, a Crimson design and business editor.

Many students were careful to note, however, that the program does not offer help to everyone.

Selena Rincon ’17, a board member of student groups Fuerza Latina and Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA, said she was initially ecstatic about the announcement, but added that she checked her happiness after she thought about the people it would not benefit.

Jin Park ’18, who was granted protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Obama launched in 2012 for undocumented youths raised in the U.S., said the program would not apply to his parents because he is undocumented.

Park acknowledged that Obama faced political limitations in advancing reform, but argued that the program should also apply to the parents undocumented students like him. Those students are often called “Dreamers” after the DREAM Act, a bill that has failed to pass Congress several times and would provide undocumented students with a path to citizenship. Harvard has lobbied in favor of the legislation.

“Those children [with citizenship or permanent residence status] are Americans, but the Dreamers are also Americans,” he said.

Some students raised other concerns, such as how Obama’s successor could change the program and how it would affect undocumented immigrants without families. All agreed, however, that it was a positive step forward for immigration reform advocates.

Several student organizations co-hosted a watch party in anticipation of Obama’s announcement. According to Ilian A. Meza-Pena ’17, the president of Radcliffe RAZA and a member of Act on a Dream, roughly 40 students attended the watch party. They greeted the news with excitement, she said, even students who were disappointed that the program would not extend to their families.

“It’s one stepping stone,” Park said. “I’m really thankful. It’s a big step forward—but we still have a lot of work.”

—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at quynhnhu.le@thecrimson.com.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: Nov. 25, 2014

An eariler version of this article incorrectly stated that Jin Park '18 and his siblings are undocumented. In fact, he is an only child.

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