COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - 5 million out of nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants will benefit from President Obama's executive action.
It will allow millions of immigrants that qualify to be able to work and live in the U.S. but a Columbus State University professor says this doesn't mean they will be offered citizenship or be eligible for federal benefits.
"Clearly Congress is the sole authority in making law but the president can use executive action," Dr. Fred Gordon, the chairman of CSU political science department said. "It gives the President the ability to make decisions that can impact laws. In this case, the President is trying to afford relief to children who came to the United States under the age of sixteen and before January 1, 2010. It'll also allow their parents to stay in the U.S to work and live in the country up to three years."
The qualified undocumented immigrants will have to pass background checks and pay back taxes even though they will not be offered a path to citizenship or health care programs. The order could also be changed by a new president in the future. Dr. Gordon explained this is still an opportunity given to five million undocumented individuals to work and stay in the U.S.
"President Obama said this is a country of immigrants," Dr. Gordon said. "So it sends a positive message to all immigrants out there. However, he did say criminals will be deported, and entering the U.S. illegally will also get them caught as well."
33 year old Juan Carlos Diaz came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was 21-years -old for education. He's been in Columbus for almost seven years, and he's the pastor of Iglesia De Dios Nuevo Pacto which also means New Covenant Church of God on Primrose Road.
"For years we have been waiting for lot of promises," Diaz said. "At least now we see some action and some movement towards that. "
Diaz said he was at a house with couple of families Thursday night to watch Obama's speech on television.
"Everyone was extremely happy," Diaz said. "They were crying in joy and we were all happy for our brothers and sisters and others who will benefit from this change."
Diaz said he feels bad for others who will not benefit from this change.
"On the other hand, we have others who might feel like that the doors are closed for them," Diaz said. "I hope they don't lose hope and I hope they don't see it that way. I want to believe that this change is just a start and bigger changes will happen for all of us."
Diaz said he wants to see a day when the President and the Congress get together to create a platform or policy that will allow immigrants to easily get their citizenship.
"I know about 10 families who will benefit from this change in Columbus," Diaz said. "I understand criminals and law breakers being deported but there are hard working individuals who contribute to the community positively. Some have skills and talent they can give back to the country."
The President has no power to put undocumented immigrants on the citizenship or grant permanent residence permits. However, Dr. Gordon says this will allow at least five million hard-working, law-abiding undocumented immigrants to work and live freely in the U.S. for a few more years.
"The president wanted to show that he is able to make changes to help our immigrants," Dr. Gordon said. "Obama's executive action showed that the president can make an impact in policies and he cares about the hard working people."