Big changes are coming to immigration reform as the President announces his plan Thursday night. The plans could protect millions of people from deportation and allow parents of undocumented children to live in the US.
The immigration announcement will affect people of all nationalities living in Oklahoma, but many members of the growing Hispanic community say the decision will help keep families together.
"There's been a lot of excitement because this has been a fight," said Fredy Valencia.
It's a fight Valencia knows all about living as an undocumented resident in Oklahoma.
"I live it, that's why I understand it so well," Valencia said.
Valencia grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and came to OKC at 17 years old, which is too old to be a part of the Government's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). But he's not living in the shadows, Valencia prepared for a watch party at La Oaxaquena Bakery and Restaurant on SW 29th St. for President Obama's Address on Immigration. “We're hoping that this announcement will be as broad as possible, we want Obama to go big and cover as many people as possible to relieve the deportation fears,” Valencia said.
State officials think Obama went too far, in a statement, Gov. Mary Fallin said:
"The president has now unilaterally granted legal status to millions of individuals who may require state-funded medical and educational services as well as other benefits enjoyed by American citizens. All of this comes with a price tag, which the president has not addressed."
The Greater OKC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says undocumented people are already here, and with reform they could buy houses, pay taxes and add an economic impact.
"I know there's a fear factor involved there, but I don't think it's going to be, don't think they're going to be taking jobs away from somebody else,” said David Castillo, executive director of the Greater OKC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“People who are undocumented have taken the lower paid positions, and that's where they're working right now in those positions that no one else wants to fulfill.”
Valencia hopes the immigration plan will expand the Deferred Action program age limit and allow not only the parents of U.S. citizens to stay without being deported but also the parents of undocumented children, who were brought into the United States as kids and have grown up in the country.
"This really is no easy ticket for us after this happens, this is not amnesty, this is not going to make us get everything that everybody else gets, we're still going to struggle a lot," he said.
President Obama's speech is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.