Guerrero and her older brother were brought here by their parents from Mexico when she was 2 years old. Her younger brother was born here. On Friday, she was pleased with the new policy but taking a wait-and-see approach given what she described as past empty promises.
“We’re happy that it’s making progress, but we don’t want to say it’s a complete victory because it’s not an executive order,” said Guerrero, a youth organizer with DreamActivist Georgia.
“Even though he made an announcement last year about not deporting people, we still had 400,000 people deported,” she said. “Less than 1.5 percent of these cases were actually closed. So we want to see more action as opposed to more announcements.”
While he can understand Guerrero’s cautious optimism, Cobb Immigrant Alliance spokesman Rich Pellegrino said there’s reason for fellow immigrant rights activists to celebrate. He’s planning a rally at 10 a.m. Monday in Marietta Square.
“That’s youth mistrust of elders, and mistrust of the government and Obama administration’s broken promises,” Pellegrino said of Guerrero’s outlook.
“To me it’s a no-brainer that we should welcome these youth. I know people have different feelings about undocumented immigrants, but when it comes to these youth who have done nothing wrong, played by the rules, excelled in school and all they know is America, it makes sense.”
Standing in the White House Rose Garden, Obama announced his administration will stop deporting some young people who came to America as children of illegal immigrants.
“Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard and maybe even graduated at the top of your class — only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language you may not even speak. That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act.”
The DREAM Act — a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants in college or the military which the policy change closely mirrors — was not supported by immigration enforcement activist D.A. King, who described Obama’s recent announcement as an election-year stunt.
“It’s the start of the incrementalism of amnesty in slow motion,” King said Friday. “The illegal alien lobby demanded that President Obama start the amnesty process, and candidate Obama is acquiescent.”
King, president of the Cobb-based Dustin Inman Society, said he believes the policy is carving out a path to citizenship and the right to vote for the same young illegal immigrants that it helps.
“Like most Americans, I have great sympathy for the young people who were brought here as babies illegally,” King said. “But that’s not what this is about. This is about incrementalism on amnesty. This will be followed by a demand that their parents should be legal.”
On Friday, state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) commended the president’s actions.
Earlier this year, Morgan filed a resolution in the General Assembly to allow illegal immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition at Georgia’s public colleges and universities, challenging state law that requires them to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
“I didn’t even realize the significance of this issue until I met with students at Pebblebrook — very intelligent students with very high GPAs — whose future opportunities were very limited because they just could not afford a higher education,” she said.
“I just don’t understand why we’d have a policy in place that says we’re going to educate you from K-12, but then after that, we don’t want you to have access to higher education. We know that a college education is very expensive for a lot of families and sometimes out of reach.”
A higher education has been out of reach for Guerrero since she graduated from Pebblebrook in 2011. She attended college for a semester, but had to drop out after her savings were exhausted. She now works part-time as a restaurant waitress, when she isn’t fighting for fellow illegal immigrants such as Jesus Cruz.
Cruz, a 21-year-old 2010 Pebblebrook graduate, is facing deportation to Mexico after being cited by law enforcement for driving without a license. He is scheduled to learn his fate on July 16 at a U.S. Immigration and Customs hearing in Atlanta.
“His case is a perfect case because he qualifies for the DREAM Act and has a completely clean record,” Guerrero said.
Another area illegal immigrant, whose arrest following a traffic stop at Kennesaw State University in March 2010 made international headlines, is Jessica Colotl, a KSU graduate. After she was discovered to be in the country illegally, she was ordered to complete 150 hours of community service and report to a pretrial diversion program.
She told CNN on Friday that she applauds Obama’s decision and plans to attend law school in order to become an immigration lawyer.
On Friday, Cobb District Attorney Pat Head said he would not pursue the Colotl case any further. He said she has completed the requirements of the diversion program and that prosecutors have filed paperwork to end the case, though a judge has not yet signed it.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re done,” Head said.
That decision came as a disappointment to Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, who said he expressed his opposition to such a move to Head when the DA consulted him about six months ago on the matter.
“I said I thought it would not be a good idea; it was just a slap on the wrist,” Warren said.
Warren, who implemented the federal 287(g) program that allows local governments to assist ICE in the deportation process, said he doesn’t believe Obama’s policy change will have much impact on 287(g) because it’s a federal and local partnership. But it will hurt law enforcement, he said.
“Anytime you can let anyone know it’s OK to drive vehicles without a driver’s license or insurance, there are consequences,” said Warren, who said Obama is pandering for votes.
“I’m totally disappointed but not surprised. Ever since (Obama’s) been in office, seems like all he’s ever done is try to circumvent the rule of law and make promises that he cannot keep.”
Today is the 12th anniversary of the death of Dustin Inman, who was killed at age 16 in a traffic collision with an illegal immigrant during Father’s Day weekend.