Obama's new immigration policy not for everyone

June 20, 2012

President Obama's new immigration policy allows some undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States legally. But WBEZ found someone who won't take advantage of the change.

Mr. Obama's would stop the deportations of some undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, provided they meet certain criteria.

But Jose Herrera, a 28-year old college student and immigrations rights activist, said he won't take the offer.

Herrera came to the U.S. as a boy. He now has a son and lives on Chicago's Northwest Side. Herrera has also been fighting deportation back to his native Mexico, following his arrest on a drunken driving charge in June 2008. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was set to be released from Cook County Jail, but was instead scooped up by federal immigration authorities.

He has now been fighting his deportation from the U.S. for four years, and said he'd rather have finality on his case than the type of temporary measure the White House is implementing.

"You get to a point that, you know, you gotta get it over with," Herrera said. "You know, you can not live any more in limbo. I've been in limbo for four years. I think that's enough."

The Justice Department's new immigration policy, announced last week, would offer temporary work authorization for two years. Immigrants would have to be younger than 30, currently in school or the military and have not been convicted of a felony or "significant misdemeanor," according to the department.

Herrera said it's unclear how significant a crime would have to be to get turned away, but he said immigrants who have a prior arrest record should get details on the policy before signing up for the new program.

The policy shift has been applauded by some immigrants rights groups. But Herrera says he's urging other young illegal immigrants to wait before applying for work  permits. That's because he said there is no appeals process if an application is rejected, so young illegal immigrants could then be turned away, but still end up on the radar of federal immigration authorities.