TUSCALOOSA | President Barack Obama's policy that would prevent
young illegal immigrants who meet certain qualifications from being
deported has caused a stir in Tuscaloosa's Hispanic community.
Supporters of the policy change say it eases fears of deportation
for some illegal immigrants, although they say it does nothing to
protect older illegal immigrants or younger immigrants who don't
meet the policy's qualifications.
The new policy also comes into conflict with Alabama's
immigration law, considered the most restrictive in the country.
One illegal immigrant, 20-year-old Lourbes, who moved to
Tuscaloosa from Queretaro, Mexico, when she was 10, qualifies under
the new policy. She said she plans to apply for a work permit as
soon as that process is open.
Lourbes graduated from high school in Tuscaloosa and does factory
work in Tuscaloosa.
She said she's happy about the policy change.
"I think it's awesome news because students and us as young
people didn't know we were violating the law crossing into another
country when we came here," Lourbes said. "We just wanted to meet
our parents and have a better life."
Lourbes said her parents came to the U.S. when she was 3, leaving
her and her brother in Mexico with their grandparents.
When she was 10 and her brother was 9, they joined their parents
in the U.S.
"My parents wanted to wait to bring us over because they were
trying to raise money," she said.
"They were gone the whole time and I was so glad to see them. My
brother and I never had in our minds that this is wrong according to
the law. We just wanted to be with our parents."
Shay Farley, legal director for the Alabama Appleseed Center for
Law and Justice in Montgomery, said the new federal policy means
children who cross into the U.S. will not be deported because they
didn't choose to enter the country by themselves.
"The child didn't crawl across the border," Farley said. "They
didn't get in a truck and drive here. They didn't make a decision to
come. They didn't think about committing a violation or a crime.
That's all this decision does is protect them. It doesn't grant
anyone who's a criminal anything."
Lourbes said the new policy will open doors for young illegal
immigrants who grew up in the U.S. Her immigration status has kept
her from going to college, she said.
"It's hard growing up here and learning that you can't do what
your other friends are doing or going to do," she said.
"All of my friends would say during my senior year, 'I'm going to
Samford, UA or another college,' and they'd ask me what college am I
going to. I'd say no college because I'm tied up. I had no idea that
my status would prevent me from doing the things I thought I could
do. I applied for Shelton (State Community College) and they asked
for proof of residence. I couldn't provide it."
She said despite her good grades, she could not find a college to
"I got offered full scholarships to colleges, but when my teacher
who was trying to help me would tell colleges that I was illegal,
those scholarships would disappear before my very eyes," she said.
Under the new federal guidelines for the Department of Homeland
Security, illegal immigrants will not be deported if they were
brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger
They also must have been in the country for at least five
consecutive years, have no criminal history, and have either
graduated from a U.S. high school, earned a GED or served in the
Illegal immigrants who qualify can also apply for two-year work
permits that can be renewed.
"The policy opens some doors for people," said Dorothy McDade,
coordinator of Hispanic ministries at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
"Any little crack where someone can get in the door is better than
"It gives a little bit of reprieve for the young people, but not
to the parents who have been living here and raising those kids. …