GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — President Barack Obama is set to address the nation Thursday night on the controversial topic of immigration.
The president is expected to bypass Congress with executive action. NBC News reported Obama’s plan is expected to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country without fear of deportation, including undocumented parents of children born here.
It could also extend the stay of foreign graduates of U.S. colleges with high-tech skills.
“What I’m expecting to hear is a stop to deportation, some sort of a program to stop deportation that splits families that is one of the most important things we are hoping to hear,” said Carlos Sanchez, the interim executive director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan.
The issue has America deeply divided. A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll shows 48% oppose executive action, while 38% support it.
Sanchez said the move would help give stability to kids who are already in the U.S. legally living with parents who aren’t.
“The system is broken. … The fact of the matter is we are not living in an ideal situation. The system is broken, so we need to fix that system,” Sanchez said.
“That’s a crock. Because our immigration laws are not broken, they just are not enforced,” said Tamyra Murray with Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement.
Murray does not support the move the president is expected to make.
“We already have a path for migration to allow families to come here. They set an allotted number every year,” she said.
Sanchez said there are a large number of families here in West Michigan who the president’s action could affect, though he didn’t have exact numbers.
“Hopefully it will alleviate their anxiety. That is one of the biggest detriments for people that live in limbo right now,” he said.
He said each family’s story about what led them to the United States is different, but that often they are fleeing a devastating situation.
“A parent, a mother, a father, whatever their color, or nationality, and their race or ethnicity is, if they see their kids or they are in a situation that might put them in danger or endanger their kids, they will do anything, anything to get them out of that situation, including what they go through to come here,” he said.
“It’s not right. America’s built on laws. Everyone follows the same law. That’s how we are all judged as Americans; we each receive equal punishment,” Murray said.
Sanchez said he hopes Obama’s Thursday night address is just a start to immigration reform.
“Let’s hope that next year with the different political landscape, we can take it from there and build from that rather than start from zero,” he said.
Murray said she is not opposed to immigration, but thinks it needs to be done legally.
“I have a lot of legal immigrant friends,” Murray said. “I have friends that came legally from El Salvador, legally from Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Mexico. I’m not opposed to legal immigration at all.”