SALT LAKE CITY — Associates of Salt Lake City's Centro Civico Mexicano met with community members Monday to discuss President Barack Obama's plans to take executive action on immigration policy.
Obama's announcement came Monday afternoon in light of inaction from Congress on proposed immigration law and after waves of unaccompanied children have entered the U.S. through the Mexican border.
Obama said he plans to increase enforcement at the border and to designate resources to deport the most recent illegal immigrants, especially those who pose a threat to national security.
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said it's good to see movement on immigration policy, and he reminded community members that the president's authority to enact immigration reform without Congress is very limited, and the outcome is still unknown.
"This is a very exciting day," Yapias said. "More than anything tonight, we want to let the community know to stay calm. I think it's important to slow down and take a deep breath. Something's going to come. As those details come forward, we'll be able to work with the community, inform them with regard to this."
Brandy Farmer, president of Centro Civico Mexicano, said action on immigration is long overdue.
"I'm so glad to know the president is finally standing up and saying, 'It's time to do something about this,'" Farmer said. "Even though a lot of it may possibly not be the way we want it to pass at least he's standing up and doing something."
Yapias discouraged community members from taking immediate legal action with regard to their immigration status in light of Obama's announcement as there are immigration attorneys who take advantage of widespread panic.
"It's worrisome," he said. "We've had in the past, for example, attorneys say, 'Give us a $500 down payment to secure your spot.' We just ask the community to be more cautious on this. For an attorney to say, 'I know exactly what Obama's going to do,' he must know something that nobody does.
"We don't want people to get scammed," Yapias said.
Mark Alvarez, an attorney and immigration specialist, echoed Yapias' counsel.
"It's important to act correctly, and it's important to act," he said. "But don't do so early, and never do so out of fear or out of panic."
Alvarez encouraged concerned residents to turn to nonprofit organizations and other official sources, such as Salt Lake City's Mexican Consulate, if they want consultation and updates on their immigration status.
Archie Archuleta, president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, said he hopes the U.S. government will be sensitive to the needs of the children who have recently crossed the border as many of them have undergone a journey "fraught with danger."
"It's a humanitarian crisis," he said. "These children deserve what we can offer them at this time, and a much better reception than a refugee camp."