Immigration plan could aid 105,000 in state

SEATTLE — The number of immigrants in Washington state who could be affected by President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action could be more than 100,000, according to a think-tank’s estimates.

The president’s plan protects parents who are in the country illegally but whose children are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, regardless of whether the children are minors. To be eligible, the parents would have to have lived in the U.S. for five years. That part of the plan affects about 4.1 million people.

The president is also expected to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Obama launched in 2012. It shields from deportation minors who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Obama will extend the program to minors who arrived before 2107, instead of the current cutoff of 2007, and lift the requirement that applicants be under 31 to be eligible. Upward of 250,000 could be affected.

According to estimates by the D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, there are about 77,000 parents in Washington state who could qualify for the deferred action program for parents of citizen children or children in the country legally. Another 28,000 people could join the expanded program for young immigrants.

One of those immigrants is Tilar Soto, who was watching the president’s address at Casa Latina, a day laborer center in Seattle, with other immigrants.

“It was a bittersweet triumph,” Soto said in Spanish. “I would have liked to have more families included.”

Many of her fellow day laborers will not qualify, she said, mainly because they don’t have children or have been here less than five years.

Soto migrated with her oldest child to the U.S. from Mexico in 1996 when she was 18. Now 37 and with two children born in the United States, Soto will qualify for the program. She currently works as a day laborer.

But she said it’s still hard to believe she’ll be able to stay in the country without fear of deportation. “I won’t believe it until I see it,” Soto said.

Her oldest child qualified for the deferred action for young immigrants. Now that there is a program that includes her and her husband, she plans to work twice as much to save money for the fees.

Obama also announced bolstered border protections in his address to the nation on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, a rally hosted by the advocacy group OneAmerica attracted a small crowd outside a federal building in Seattle. The rally featured speeches from politicians, advocates and immigrants. One common theme was that Obama’s actions are not comprehensive immigration reform, but rather another step.

“So please no matter what the announcement is tonight, don’t stop pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Don’t stop holding Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans accountable for the complete unwillingness to act on this issue,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma.

However, after the president’s speech, Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers echoed the GOP’s critique of Obama’s plan to use his executive powers.

“When it comes to fixing our broken immigration system, the American people want a permanent solution, not a quick fix. They want the most effective solution, not the most expeditious one. They want their elected leaders to come together, transcend partisan divisions, and advance real, common-sense solutions. Make no mistake: I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – and I will listen to the American people – to get immigration reform right. I urge the President to join us in that effort,” she said in a statement.

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