Guest opinion: What Obama’s order means for rural Colorado |

Guest opinion: What Obama’s order means for rural Colorado

Yesenia Arreola meets President Barack Obama in Grand Junction in 2012.
Sara Mays |

President Obama’s executive action is what I call a political Band-Aid in an immigration system that is in much need of reform. However, it is a political Band-Aid that is much appreciated and is a step in the right direction.

Aside from the large-scale immigration reform that is desperately needed, Obama’s executive action will provide temporary relief to more than 5 million immigrants in the U.S. While Congress has been unable to fix the broken immigration system, the president has provided much-needed relief to valued members of our community. While many of the details are still not defined, the executive action will make a real impact.

In our local rural communities, many families will be able to remain together, invest in their community and contribute to the growth of our local economies even more. Students and their families will too reap the emotional benefit that comes with living without constant fear of family separation.

Additionally, they will no longer be fearful of not reporting constant injustices they face, such as discrimination, wage theft and other related types of domestic violence or employer abuse that often occur in our mountain communities but go under-reported because of fear.

Included in President Obama’s executive action:

• Deferred action for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who fit the eligibility requirements.

• Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to remove the age cap and move the continuous presence date up to Jan. 1, 2010. DACA will now be granted for three years (including those with pending renewal applications).

• Ensuring that job-creating entrepreneurs have legal means to enter and operate in the U.S.

• Allowing spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to apply for waivers from within the U.S. that would allow them to stay and ensuring appropriate standards for adjudicating those waivers.

• Enabling families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces to utilize a process known as “parole in place” to ensure legal status.


A report released by the Council of Economic Advisers says that Obama’s executive action will expand the labor force and increase worker productivity.

About 11 million people living in the United States are not authorized to be here, and a lot of these are people who are of working age but either cannot work or work only under fear of being caught. When we have individuals who now can work with authorization, they are more likely to invest actively in the economy.

The Council of Economic Advisers report estimates Obama’s action will increase the average wage by .03 percent over a 10-year period and cut the federal deficit by $25 billion by 2024.

Data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy reveals that unauthorized immigrants in Colorado paid $152.2 million in state and local taxes in 2010, including $108.1 million in sales taxes, $27.1 million in state income taxes, and $17.1 million in property taxes.

According to the same source, as reported by the American Immigration Council, if unauthorized immigrants in Colorado were to have legal status, they would pay $195.2 million in state and local taxes, including $114.7 million in sales taxes, $62.1 million in state income taxes, and $18.4 million in property taxes.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, unauthorized immigrants composed 4.6 percent of Colorado’s workforce (or 120,000 workers) in 2010. If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Colorado, the state would lose $8 billion in economic activity, $3.6 billion in gross state product and approximately 39,738 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

Thank you, President Obama. Your executive action on immigration is a win on all sides — except for the ones who are still not protected. Many people in our community will not qualify, and it is for this reason and the fact that executive action is only a temporary solution. Now our work begins with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform.

Yesenia Arreola, born in Mexico, is a Carbondale Latina and naturalized citizen.

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