As legalization looms, Jose Antonio Vargas says, ‘I can now go back and see my mother’

Jose Antonio Vargas; with his mother Emelie Salinas

Jose Antonio Vargas; with his mother Emelie Salinas

By Cristina DC Pastor

One of the much anticipated initiatives in President Obama’s planned executive action was the expansion of DACA or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

On November 20, Obama made it official: He unveiled a plan to expand the coverage of DACA and offer relief as well to undocumented parents of citizens and permanent residents if they have been living in the country at least five years, pay back taxes, and pass a criminal background check. Obama’s executive action is seen to apply to about 5 million undocumented immigrants.

While these moves do not confer permanent resident status on these individuals, the White House said this is temporary and must be renewed every three years.

Filipino American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, possibly the most popular undocumented immigrant, appeared pleased with the announcement.

“What this means is I can now get a work permit and a driver’s license,” he told the O’Reilly Show shortly after the announcement. More importantly, he added, “I can now go back to the Philippines and see my mother and allowed to come back.”

Vargas missed being covered by the DACA immigration relief when it was adopted in 2012 because it provided a cut-off date of 30 years old for immigrant youth to qualify. Jose was 31 years old then.

In his 15-minute speech, Obama disavowed the use of the term “amnesty.” “Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he said. He reiterated his plan is a “commonsense, middle ground approach.”

“Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” he said.

Vargas called the executive action “historic,” and said that despite Obama’s initiatives, immigration reform remains an “incredibly complicated” issue.

He disclosed how more than half of the 11 million undocumented immigrants have been in the country at least 10 years.

“This is our home,” said Jose who came to the U.S. at age 12 when he was sent by his mother to live with his grandparents in California.

Social media was quick with congratulations for Obama’s executive action. One reaction came from Dr. Kevin Nadal, president of the Filipino American National Historical Society of Metro New York.

“Thank you, President Obama,” writes Nadal on Facebook. “No more living in the shadows for many of my family and friends.”

The detailed provisions of the executive action are available here.

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One Comment

  1. RobDH wrote:

    Yes, there will be a hold on your deportation. However, just until the next Congress takes office in January 2015. Additional, the incoming Republican President will reverse all that Barry Obama has brought upon our country.

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