Coming Out of the Shadows

With an executive order, Barack Obama has put an end to the anguish of 5 million people, who, because of their status as undocumented immigrants, have lived for years at risk of being deported to their native countries if they find themselves in a situation where they are ever asked for documentation. This executive order ends such anguish for millions who have demanded a change for years and is an exceptional measure that establishes the greatest regularization of immigration status in the last 30 years.

If there is any country in which immigration clearly represents a fundamental contribution to its progress and well-being, that country is the United States. That is how Obama emphasized it during a live, prime-time appearance in which he explained his momentous decision. It is an action that follows in the wake — albeit with significant legal differences — of other important legal changes made by White House predecessors from all political camps, the most noteworthy among them being the immigration law enacted by former Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

It is precisely because of the uncompromising opposition of the Republican Party — which, following the elections earlier this month, now controls both houses of Congress — that the president has turned to an executive order, or a presidential decree which does not require Congressional approval. It is a tool which almost every U.S. president, except Obama has utilized. The executive order is a gesture of authority, striking a blow after months of resistance and deadlock from the Republicans. However, the fact that the intent of the executive order is right and just does not prevent it from also being considered a double-edged sword.

Without a doubt, the order showcases Obama´s willingness to fulfill one of his principal promises to resolve a grave problem inherited from previous administrations; but the decision significantly sharpens his conflict with legislative powers and highlights his inability to work together with Congress, not to mention the fact that a future president could rescind Obama´s decree without explanation.

What is important is that this resolution puts an end to unjust circumstances, indeed, situations that often border on the bureaucratically surreal, and there´s nothing to do but congratulate President Obama for acting. Some 4 million out of the 5 million people who will benefit from the measure are parents of children born in the country, and therefore rightful U.S. citizens. These are children whose lives are frequently marked by the fear of their parents´ deportation. The words that Obama directed towards them have a literal meaning in millions of cases: ¨You can come out of the shadows.” What remains to be seen now is what will happen with the 6 million undocumented immigrants that continue to live in the United States. That is a problem that the next White House will inherit.

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