Young illegal immigrants in Virginia are celebrating President Barack Obama's change in immigration policy Friday afternoon. The major announcement would allow most young illegal immigrants to no longer be deported, if they meet certain criteria.
Kevin Ramos, 21, of Colonial Heights is on the verge of being deported to a country he's scared to live in. Ramos said his parents brought him over the U.S. border from Honduras when he was 14 years old. Since then, he's graduated from Colonial Heights High School and works in a restaurant to help support his mother, father and siblings.
However, Ramos is undocumented in the country he calls his "homeland," America.
Obama's policy change has now given Ramos renewed hope of staying with his family.
"I'm praying….hopefully," said Ramos. "I help my parents. I pay rent, bills, medicine for my mom...my little sisters."
After getting caught driving without a license, Ramos is now enveloped in the deportation process.
"I would just be destroyed, and just be scared," said Ramos, if he were to be sent to Honduras. Ramos said the country's economy isn't ideal and that there are lots of "trouble makers" there, who he wants to stay away from.
Ramos's immigration attorney, Irina Manelis, said Obama's change would likely allow him to stay in the U.S.
The deportation deferral and work permit would be given to illegal immigrants under 30 years old if they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and have no felony criminal history. The undocumented immigrant must also have graduated high school or earned a GED, or served in the military, and have been living in the U.S. for five years continuously.
"We see lots of people coming in day in, day out, who are really frustrated that they can't do anything…These are bright kids who have graduated from U.S. high schools, who want to go forward and contribute to society," said Manelis.
While President Obama insists the policy isn't amnesty, some Republicans are disagreeing. Conservatives have said that the move turns a blind eye to some illegal immigrants, and not others.
"It's a really a slap in the face to law enforcement across this country," said Corey Stewart, a Republican who is the chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
Stewart is also running for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia. He said he helped create some of the toughest laws against illegal immigrants in the country, in Prince William County.
Stewart said the crime rate there has since decreased by 50 percent, but President Obama's change still allows illegal criminals to stay in the country.
"ICE does not consider a repeat DUI offender as a serious crime. They don't consider indecent liberties with children a serious crime. These same people... they will be granted amnesty under the president's program," added Stewart.
President Obama said he's making this change because Congress wouldn't. He made it clear that his plan does not offer illegal residents American citizenship.
"Imagine you've done everything right your entire life. Studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class, only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language you may not even speak," said President Obama at a White House press conference.
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