Shortly before President Barack Obama unveiled changes to the nation’s immigration system on Thursday, about 30 people in Vancouver joined others across the state to rally in support.
They stood in front of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s Vancouver office and expressed hope the president’s action would help keep their families intact.
Eulalia Soto, a Vancouver-based immigration attorney, urged Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, to support Obama’s efforts.
Soto, 39, told the crowd her family came to the country illegally and benefited from changes former President Ronald Reagan made to immigration laws.
Soto pointed out at the rally that Herrera Beutler talks a lot about the importance of family.
“We have family, too,” Soto said.
May Cruz, a senior at Fort Vancouver High School, said she lives in constant fear that she will return home from school one day and her parents, who are undocumented, will not be at home.
Cruz said she can’t imagine what would happen to her 4-year-old brother if their family was split up.
“If my parents were ever deported, I know it would be so hard on him,” Cruz said.
Elizabeth Ruiz, 36, a volunteer with OneAmerica, which sponsored the rally, told the crowd the story of when she was picked up and nearly deported.
Her husband didn’t know where she was for three days. She spent two months separated from her family and her 3-year-old daughter kept asking why she wasn’t home.
“It broke my heart,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz is now a permanent U.S. resident.
Not everyone there agreed with Obama’s policies.
Martin Hogan, 50, of Vancouver, stood on the fringes of the rally and said he was curious if Herrera Beutler would speak.
He said he hopes Republicans move to impeach Obama for his actions on Thursday.
“It’s a dark day in our nation’s history when one branch of government attempts to usurp the enumerated authority of another,” Hogan said.
Herrera Beutler, who was not at the event, could not be reached for comment.
The Pew Research Center estimated the number of immigrants in the state illegally is about 230,000, putting the state 12th in the nation, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Jay Inslee praised the president’s decision.
“Tonight President Obama outlined humane, necessary reforms to provide relief to hard-working, law-abiding Washington families and to support our state’s economy, including the important agricultural sector. The plan will also increase border security and enforcement where it should be — against criminals and individuals who would pose a threat to our national security,” Inslee said in a statement. “I have repeatedly urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The president’s action should not absolve Congress of its responsibility to act in the face of a broken immigration system. Washington residents and businesses have waited long enough for action.”