MADISON (WKOW) -- A new presidential initiative could help hundreds of thousands of young, illegal immigrants avoid deportation.
President Obama announced his plans Friday afternoon, and is already getting political push back on his policy. But for those who work with young, illegal immigrants in Dane County, it gives new hope and opportunity.
"I know that it's not only going to change their lives but the community, and it's going to be a positive effect," said Javier Neira, who works with Hispanic students in the Madison area through a group he helped found called Alcance.
Neira says his group of friends, all Wisconsin college students, decided to put the group together after noticing the low amount of Hispanic students in their classes. "When we went and actually encouraged them to go to college, you could see their eyes opening and saying, 'I can be him, I can be her," Neira said about Alcance's presentations at local schools.
But now he says, there may be even more hope.
"Makes no sense to expel talented young people, who for all intents and purpose are American, raised as American, understand themselves as part of this country," President Obama said during a press conference Friday.
Under the new guidelines, effective immediately, deportation will no longer be enforced for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16, are not older than 30, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and have no criminal record.
Kent Craig, Executive Director of Centro Hispano in Dane County says this policy will benefit some of the people with whom he works. He also says recent census data shows that about 20 percent of kids in Madison elementary schools are Hispanic.
Craig said, "It will give a possibility to not worry about while I'm studying and doing everything right for my future, for my family's future, that I don't have to worry about being deported."
But not everyone is a fan of the President's new policy. His opponent, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded to the initiative Friday. Romney said, "The president's actions makes reaching a long term solution more difficult."
Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer also spoke about the president's announcement. "It doesn't take a cynic to recognize this action for what it is, blatant political pandering by a president desperate to shore up his political base," Brewer said.
In the past, the president and Democrats had pushed for passage of the "Dream Act," which passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
Neira said this new plan still makes dreams come true. "With the policy that Obama has adopted, we're able to encourage these kids, tell them that you do have a future in this country, and not only that but you will be able to help this country," he said.
The election year announcement is expected to help President Obama among Hispanic voters. In addition, polls have shown that a majority of Americans support some form of accommodation for illegal immigrants.
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