Locals applaud President Obama's immigration order

Many say it is a necessary first step while high-tech sector views changes as insufficient

The controversial announcement by President Barack Obama on Thursday, Nov. 20, to use his executive powers to grant nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants a three-year reprieve from deportation may have brought disapproval from his critics, but many people on Palo Alto and East Palo Alto streets said they approve the bold move.

Obama's flexing of executive action, which bypassed House of Representatives gridlock on immigration-reform legislation, is long overdue, said many who were queried by the Weekly on Friday. Patrons at Starbucks, San Mateo Credit Union and Mi Pueblo Market in East Palo Alto and workers and residents in downtown Palo Alto said Obama's action is an act of leadership that they have been expecting since his election.

But some in Silicon Valley and those who represent high tech said Obama's changes are still too weak.

"We think the President missed an opportunity," said Russ Harrison, government relations director for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA. "It was all wind up and very little pitch. In the end, he did some small things. It was disappointing."

Obama's executive action will allow undocumented parents of American children or legal residents who have lived in the United States for more than five years to register and undergo a criminal background check. If they pay taxes and pass the background checks, they can apply to stay in the country temporarily without possibility of deportation. Undocumented residents will be able to apply for jobs, but they cannot vote or obtain insurance under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The action would beef up border security and deportation of those who commit crimes.

"Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids," Obama said in his speech.

The action will also streamline legal immigration by providing easier work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting lawful permanent resident status or green cards. The Department of Homeland Security would make regulatory changes to allow these workers to move or change jobs more easily. The action will allow certain H1B spouses employment as long as the spouse has an approved green card application.

The action will streamline immigration for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S., and it will include income thresholds so that the immigrants are not eligible for welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

The changes would streamline and expand programs for foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at U.S. universities and reduce family separations for persons awaiting green cards.

The complete list of reform changes can be found here.

Some local residents and workers spoke at length about Obama's action Friday and said they are tired of the congressional stonewalling.

"It's a real act of leadership where somebody has finally gotten off their butt and done something, and I'm not an Obama supporter. But this is a problem we have to solve," said a Stanford alum who did not want to give his name. He voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election, he said.

"I hope the Republicans contribute to solving the problem instead of just obfuscating or blocking. It's just time to get on with it," he added.

Obama's plan is a good start, he said.

"He ... proposed something that people have to respond to and I hope that's a constructive response. ... I don't have high hopes," he said of congressional actions.

Ruben Olagues, who also voted for Romney, said, "I like the fact that he will be deporting people who are committing crimes and that are not helping the community -- that aren't contributing to our society."

Olagues, who works at San Mateo Credit Union and has many immigrant customers, also said the action will have a positive impact.

"I think it's a great thing to keep families together, especially in East Palo Alto," he said.

His parents came to the U.S. as immigrants legally and went through the system, he said.

"I wish the system was set up to get status easier," he said.

Lexi Rubio, another credit union employee, agreed.

"I think he did a smart move to push out people who are a 'risk' to the U.S. Now give an opportunity for people who are good for the economy -- especially in our community," she said.

Starbucks customer Michael Mashack said he watched Obama's speech and "knew it was going to be controversial, but it's the right thing to do."

"It's overdue. I don't think he overstepped his bounds. It's good for our country. One of his last statements rings true: 'Pass a bill.' We need to get Congress to quit being selfish," Mashack said.

Mashack said Obama's action is about taking care of family, which Mashack likes.

Several shoppers along University Avenue in Palo Alto also supported Obama's action.

"I think we needed immigration reform. I feel Obama is probably right. At least he made a decision, and everyone criticizes him for not making decisions," Sharika Batra said.

Harrison of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said Obama's move does not help immigrant entrepreneurs in high-tech and biomedical fields enough.

"Entrepreneurs have an extraordinarily hard time raising capital until they have permanent legal status. You could have to leave the country. The president is not offering a green card," he said., an advocacy group started by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs for immigration reform, with members including Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, issued a statement on Friday, Nov. 21, calling Obama's action "a crucial step forward."

"We applaud the President for taking critical steps today to fix aspects of our broken immigration system. ... We are encouraged by the President's pledge to continue working to make it easier for entrepreneurs to create American jobs, and help keep the best and the brightest who come from around the world to study at our universities," wrote Todd Schulte, the acting president of

"These actions are no substitute for legislation, which remains the only way forward on the permanent solution to our broken immigration system our country so desperately needs," Schulte wrote.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) also said the announcement has shortcomings, but Obama's actions will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all American employees.

"The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step," the union said in a statement. "Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

"In addition, we are concerned by the President's concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector. We will actively engage in the rule-making process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections."

Some undocumented immigrants said they are cautiously happy about Obama's action.

"It's good news for my family. We need a permit to stay here," said a man who was taking his daughter to school. "But my question is, is this another trick, like years ago when he promised immigration reform?"

The action leaves many still in limbo, an elderly woman said.

"It helps people with babies, but I don't have any children, so it doesn't help me," she said.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


7 people like this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Got to wonder just how many people really approve of Obama’s move?

> or legal residents who have lived in the United States
> for more than five years to register and pass a
> criminal background check

> "Felons, not families. Criminals, not children.
> Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to
> provide for her kids," he said in his speech.

Well, as with so many of Barak Obama’s claims—it doesn’t take long for the truth to out. Today, his Department of Homeland Security issued the following directive about its new deportation priorities—

New DHS immigration rules: Drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug dealers, gun offenders not top deportation priorities:
Web Link

The new priorities are striking. On the tough side, the president wants U.S. immigration authorities to go after terrorists, felons, and new illegal border crossers. On the not-so-tough side, the administration views convicted drunk drivers, sex abusers, drug dealers, and gun offenders as second-level enforcement priorities. An illegal immigrant could spend up to a year in prison for a violent crime and still not be a top removal priority for the Obama administration.

Given Obama’s lack of candor, and transparency in his attempt to impose a national healthcare system on the American people—it’s unbelievable that he will do anything that he says he will do about stopping illegal immigration at our southern borders.

[Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

I am proud to have a president who will stand up for compassionate values.

2 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2014 at 11:16 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

Well, I guess we know what the Weekly's opinion on this is.

11 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Would those who support this policy now continue to do so if Obama had granted a reprieve from deportation to 50 million undocumented immigrants instead of 5 million? Would those who support this policy now continue to do so if Obama had granted a reprieve from deportation to 15 million undocumented Chinese immigrants who have no more than a high school education? No they wouldn't it because those 50 million or 15 million legal immigrants would supplant the cheap labor force that exits now with an even cheaper labor force. Those who are making $10.00, $12.00, $15.00 and $20.00 an hour now would be replaced with workers making $8.00 $10.00, $12.00 and $16.00 an hour. I throw in Chinese laborer immigrants because anytime anyone brings up the possibility of ending illegal immigration and the over supply of labor many of those who are currently for it play the race card to justify why they have crossed picket sabotaging the living wage and the buying power of low wage earners. Yet who ultimately gains the most by importing cheap labor, Democrats or Republicans? Who are the people who truly want illegal immigrants in the U.S.? Despite their public outcry against Obama, conservative, corporate, capitalists, (the Republicans), are the entities who desire mass illegal and legal immigration to reduce labor costs for their corporations. Zuckerberg wants the U.S. to grant more H-1B visas not because American citizens cannot be trained to the jobs he wants foreign citizens to do, but because Zuckerberg wants to keep labor costs down.

6 people like this
Posted by scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:25 am

No we dont......

2 people like this
Posted by Jaun
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:35 am

Just because your editor and reporter approve of the president's immigration actions does not necessarily mean all of Palo Alto approves. He's doing this to increase the potential democratic voters for the 2016 election.

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:44 am

Rest assured, this is a political move, not a compassionate move.

3 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:35 am

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:42 am

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Bill dtn
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Bill dtn is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

4 people like this
Posted by Bill dtn
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Bill dtn is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

2 people like this
Posted by Brendan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2014 at 10:54 am

Brendan is a registered user.

I think this was more of a move to try to get Congress to do something than anything else...and not much beyond what other presidents have done with respect to immigration.

3 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

It's easy to anticipate the sort of comments that this type of news story has - and that get deleted. Shameful.

2 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm

KP is a registered user.

Yeah...not too sure how many "locals" applaud this move.
Big mistake.
Let's see how many follow the rules that go along with this order.

1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Would those who support this policy now continue to do so if Obama had granted a reprieve from deportation to 50 million undocumented immigrants instead of 5 million? ... "

They will if they believe in the supremacy of the free and open market, kept above the ad hoc exceptions urged by various parochial interests.

These people have come here to fill a need for their services. They earn their wages and they pay their taxes. If they are out-competing graduates of Paly, Gunn, Stanford, Berkeley, etc., for those plum jobs picking strawberries, carrying 90 pound rolls of tarpaper up steep hot roofs, or pushing mowers around the lawns of graduates of Paly, Gunn, Stanford, Berkeley, etc., well, that is just the free and open marketplace at work. Get used to it.

Or light out for that paradise called North Korea where the government keeps a tight control over immigration, and jails everyone who attempts unauthorized entry.

3 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Bru is a registered user.

First ... I do not approve of just about anything to do with the immigration and border system. It is also not Obama's doing, but a mess created by both sides and a part of the country that seems to think there is a place for a virtual slave class in the US. I do not think we should have slave or two-tiered workers. It is a disgrace is just about any country that does something like that and it should have no place in the USA.

I see many factors in our lives that militate the disintegration of American society, and unrestrained immigration is one big one. Immigration in the past was somehow different. Most circumstances were different, and most of the motivations were different. People wanted to join the idea of America, and contribute to prosperity.

I don't think the US built up CA as a powerhouse of education and industry to have people who can leap over the border and come here or give birth stowaway on our prosperity and dilute our culture. I devalues caring for our own citizens and devalues our tax dollars and undercuts our trust in government, or those who run the government, by showing us government actions do not care about our people.

Yes, immigrants contribute to the economy, but so would legal immigrants and so does everyone who works. Immigration is great, that is not the issue. The issue is out of control unrestrained immigration that no one has done anything about but to ignore and ridicule anyone who comes out against it ... and I think most Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are sick of that.

If we were honest with ourselves one of the main reasons for the downgrading of social services is that they do not go to people we wanted to target to keep out of poverty or take care of, or educate, they go to anyone who can get here. How is that fair, and how is it a good idea.

Obama's game seems always to be split the difference. That does not do anything about the problem, and it does not show any leadership at all.

I am certainly not in support of Obama's plan, except for the fact that it could be so much worse ( like Obama himself ) ... is that the best we can aim for ... a deceleration of bad policies while the public is looking, just seeming to wait, wait,wait until more policies without popular support can be snuck by us? I hope not.

1 person likes this
Posted by DonaldS
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 24, 2014 at 7:08 pm

DonaldS is a registered user.

I live in Palo Alto and everyone I know thinks that a 1/2 (or 1/4th) way measure is better than nothing. It probably has a lot to do with the age and profession we hang out with that shapes our impressions. The only way to know is to do a poll. Even voting does not tell much because a small percentage of people vote. Town Square could just as well be right as anyone.

7 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

As a legal immigrant from Mexico, this decision by Obama to ignore Congress and set up his own immigration rules is a mistake. For one, it cheapens what my family worked so many hard years for. Secondly, the president would almost certainly oppose any future Republican president who decides to similarly and flagrantly abuse the power of an executive order to push his/her own agenda or an agenda against the will of Congress or voters.

This will be one of Obama's most disappointing legacies.

2 people like this
Posted by brycecs
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm

brycecs is a registered user.

Mr. Curmudgeon, the Swiss and New Zealand have as tight if not tighter border control as North Korea. If we lived in a free-market we would be paying children to work 12 to 14 hour days at a pay rate of $2 a day.
Web Link

There is no such thing as a completely free market for the market was not entirely free when slavery dominated the south in the 19th century. The laws and policies that regulate the market are nothing more than mechanisms used to manipulate the market for the interests of those who possess greater power over the market.
Web Link
Web Link

Corporations and Wall Street dominated the direction of the market during the Gilded Age up to the Great Depression then labor through unions and public policy obtained the upper hand revealed by obtaining a greater share of the profits of the companies labor worked for.

Since Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Organization there has been steady annihilation of unions across the country. One of the tools that corporations, the Chamber of Commerce being one, uses is to move labor from an economic region that requires less to sustain a living wage to an economic region that requires more to sustain a living wage. It’s called forced migration out of economic survival. The book, “Harvest of Empire” provides a detailed understanding of this practice. Immigration policy has much more to do with moving people off of farms and self-reliance occupations into urban areas and dependant occupations than it has to do with immigration status.

This has been going on for the last 60 years. In 1938 there were 6.8 million family owned farms. In 2002 there were 2.1 family owned farms.

The demise of the unions resulted in the decline of wages and benefits of non-union jobs since those businesses are no longer competing for labor against the wages and benefits of union jobs.

If we truly lived in a free-market then the government would not be providing subsidies to billion dollar corporations.
If we truly lived in a free-market we would not have bailed out General Motors, or Goldman Sachs, or AIG, or JPMorgan Chase or Morgan Stanley and numerous other millionaires.

As corporations begin to exploit high-tech workers, the educated labor force will unionize swaying the market into the favor of labor. This can be seen in the last bastion of unions, professional sports and law enforcement.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Nationally renowned Indian restaurant expanding to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,441 views

Summer travel: Is anything changing?
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 1,027 views

I feel sorry for Stanford University
By Diana Diamond | 5 comments | 929 views

Swimming with the kids
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 581 views

Premarital and Couples: "Our Deepest Fear" by Marianne Williamson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 576 views