Tulsa-Area Immigration Advocates Applaud Policy Changes
TULSA, Oklahoma - President Barack Obama is signing new policy the White House estimates will keep about five million immigrants from being deported. Republicans say they'll work in Congress to limit the plan, but immigrants are celebrating the substantial change in policy.
Though the laws aren't changing, the enforcement is. Fewer immigrants will end up at the Tulsa Jail waiting for deportation. That happens now after they're discovered through an encounter with law enforcement.
While this is the American dream for many immigrants, citizenship is still not possible for most undocumented people already living in America.
Tulsa's groups that advocate for immigrants say the President's action does the next best thing.
"Thanks to this executive action, they're going to be a relief of not being deported should anything happen, at least for the next three or four years," Blanca Zavala, Coalition for the American Dream.
The change will stop the routine deportation of otherwise law abiding people who came across the border illegally.
In Tulsa, the biggest impact is expected to be on adults who started families here - because the citizenship of their children now means the parents can stay.
Lawyer David Sobel, who helps immigrants, notes the big difference between being allowed to stay and becoming a citizen.
"This does not give people status, and for some Americans they're worried about that, but it is not a path to get their green card, it is not a path to get their citizenship," he said.
Sobel expects to stay busy helping immigrants either start the registration process - or use the new procedures to protect themselves from being deported.
Zavala says once the paperwork is in place, Tulsa will see many immigrants come out of the shadows.
It brings them hope and relief that they're not going to be deported for at least for a certain amount of time, at least until Congress takes action.
The Sheriff's Office in Tulsa is part of immigration enforcement. For them it's unclear so far exactly how this plays out - they've not had new orders come down from Washington.