TULSA, Okla. — Thousands of immigrants living illegally in Oklahoma could benefit from President Barack Obama's executive action aimed at protecting nearly 5 million people in the U.S. from deportation.
The action was hailed by Oklahoma human rights groups and panned by Republican lawmakers, who called it an overreach of powers.
The Tulsa-based Dream Act Oklahoma estimated Friday that at least 6,000 immigrants could benefit from the president's order.
Several state agencies said it was too soon to calculate what additional resources, if any, would be required for providing immigrants with services such as driver's licenses and unemployment benefits.
The main beneficiaries of the president's actions are immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally for more than five years but whose children are citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Some important things to know about Obama's immigration order:
6 MILLION MORE
Kasey Hughart, co-founder of Dream Act Oklahoma, the first youth-led immigrant rights coalition in Oklahoma, said Obama's executive order was "a good first step, but this is not the dream for the community." She added that more needs to be done to provide a path to U.S. citizenship for the roughly 6 million more immigrants already living in the country illegally, and that it would take serious dialogue between politicians and human rights groups to get it done. "The Republicans and the Democrats, they're both at fault here."
TOUGH POLITICAL TERRITORY
Republican politicians who dominate the state's congressional delegation quickly criticized Obama's plan after he spoke Thursday. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole accused the president of refusing to work with lawmakers in a bipartisan fashion, and instead "is unfortunately taking the go-it-alone approach and complicating the future of real immigration reform in the process."
Officials at several state agencies said Friday it was too soon to calculate the additional resources that could be needed to provide services to the thousands of immigrants being allowed to remain in Oklahoma because of the president's executive actions. Sheree Powell, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Human Services — Oklahoma's largest agency— said there's no way to immediately know the potential cost. "We really haven't had time to process how this is going to impact DHS," Powell said Friday. "There is no real way to estimate just how many people are eligible for services."
When Republicans retake control of the U.S. Senate in the next term, it's unclear what will happen to any discussion on creating a path to citizenship for other immigrants in the country illegally. "There needs to be a genuine conversation and analysis on how our system functions," said Hughart, with Dream Act Oklahoma. "These people didn't just come here because they felt like breaking the law."