East Tenn. immigrants and lawmakers differ on President Obama’s executive action

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – President Obama announced Thursday night executive action for immigration reform, promising relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

“If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation,” he said.

Republicans are very critical of the executive action, including lawmakers from East Tennessee, but in the middle of all of the politics are millions of undocumented immigrants who were praying for some relief and are celebrating.

“I recorded the program because I was like it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And my family and I, we were expecting this a long time ago and when the president said that, we were like, ‘Yes, we can do it, finally. Si, si puede,'” said Ely Nolasco. 

She and her family moved here almost a decade ago and she says she has spent her time in America working for a better life, one that President Obama gave her hope for Thursday night. She wants a Social Security number and a college degree.

Congressman Jimmy Duncan says it’s not that simple. He says the president announcing that his administration won’t enforce immigration laws will encourage too many people to migrate to America.

“We just can’t take in everybody who would want to come here. We’re forced to have some sort of legal orderly system of immigration and it has to be enforced,” he said. 

He added that Congress is going to try to make sure that happens. 

“We’re going to try and use the power of the purse that the congress has. Also it’s been suggested that maybe the senate which has the power to confirm various appointments to hold off on confirming any appointments by this administration unless the president is willing to compromise on this,” said Congressman Duncan.

In the meantime, Nolasco is celebrating the president’s decision.

“I just want to say thank you. Thank you Mr. President, thank you everybody. We love this country, we’re going to work hard for this country, too,” she said

Congressman Duncan did say he’s not against immigrants coming to America legally. He says there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and an executive order was not the way to go about this.

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