Why I spoke up at Obama’s immigration speech last week

OPINION I interrupted President Barack Obama last Friday during his immigration speech because there was something inherently wrong and I needed to speak up. I recall the…

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Why I spoke up at Obama’s immigration speech last week

Jose Patiño, a Dreamer from Arizona whose parents won’t qualify for protection under Obama’s executive actions, briefly interrupted the president’s speech on Friday, November 21, 2014. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

OPINION

I interrupted President Barack Obama last Friday during his immigration speech because there was something inherently wrong and I needed to speak up.

I recall the president speaking about family unity and how with his executive actions, children and parents alike will be able to sleep at night without fear of separation. He said that after years of living in fear, children will no longer have to fear coming home from school to an empty house.

To a point this is true. Approximately 5 million immigrant families will be eligible to come out of the shadows under the president’s executive actions. They will be eligible for relief from deportation, a work permit, a social security number, and possibly a driver’s license. Most importantly, they will be liberated from the fear of deportation.

SEE ALSO: The facts of President Obama’s action on immigration

But the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants—the ones who won’t qualify for Obama’s executive actions—will continue to live in the shadows. That includes many parents of Dreamers, members of the LGTBQ community, and day laborers who desperately fought for relief.

It also includes my parents.

Many have asked me why I interrupted the president’s immigration speech on Friday. I tell them I spoke up for my parents and the millions of others who will continue to live in the shadows. I spoke up because it is unfair that those who tirelessly pushed for the president to act on immigration will be left out.

My parents have been living in the United States for 19 years, yet they won’t qualify for Obama’s executive actions because their four children are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

My parents have sacrificed everything so that my siblings and I may take advantage of the opportunities America has to offer—and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering form Arizona State University, and I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree in secondary education at Grand Canyon University.

SEE ALSO: Obama on his immigration actions: ‘This is a first step’

Though my parents and millions of others will be left out from protection under Obama’s executive actions, I still view the president’s announcement as historic, because I know it will change the lives of millions of people—people I care about. I view this announcement by the president a victory that was accomplished by many of us who kept pushing for the president to act.

But I also view it as something Obama could’ve done sooner. He could’ve acted by the end of the summer, as he had promised. But instead, he chose politics over families when he decided to delay taking executive action until after the elections. By doing that, he allowed the suffering of our people to be prolonged.

And we also can’t forget the Obama administration has deported more than 2 million people. Those are families who will be scared for life. Those are families who will carry the scars of immigration officials coming into their homes and separating them from their children.

Mr. President, our community is hardworking, family-oriented, and of good moral character. I ask you to expand deferred action to the 6 million who will be left out, because I want undocumented families, like mine, to be able to come out of the shadows and live without fear.

SEE ALSO: Obama’s immigration plan protects millions, but leaves many out