Massachusetts Immigration Reform Advocates Excited for Obama's Speech

There's an estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants in the Bay State

It's estimated that about 150,000 Massachusetts undocumented immigrants could be free from the risk of deportation based on what President Obama is expected to say in his address Thursday night.

They of course are celebrating this executive action, but many Republicans are furious that the president is doing something he has repeatedly said he would not do.

"The reason I'm here in this country is because I want a better future for my family," Zoila Lopez said.

Lopez, a self-described illegal immigrant, celebrated an early Thanksgiving with hundreds of other immigrants at a State House luncheon, hours before President Obama was scheduled to give a nationally televised address. Using his executive powers, Obama is expected to announce measures that could spare as many as 5 million people from deportation and provide many with work permits.

"I believe it will help me a lot because I'm going to be able to have a better job, with my papers, and that also I'm going to have a license to drive," Lopez said.

"We're very excited that the executive order is coming and there is a temporary fix of our outdated immigration system," Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said.

MIRA sponsored the Thursday luncheon at the State House.

Like many immigration reform advocates, Millona would prefer to see Congress pass a comprehensive reform bill, but the chances of that could be further jeapordized in a new Republican Congress, with many Republican lawmakers furious that Obama acted unilaterally.

"The president himself has already said that he does not have the constitutional authority to do this. I'm not surprised at anything the president says because I think he has absolutely no credibility at this point,"

To prevent undocumented immigrants from getting drivers licenses or public benefits with their new work visas, Republican state Rep. Shauna O'Connell said she is going to file legislation requiring multiple forms of identification.

"This is a desperate attempt by the Democrats in Washington when they know that they lost the recent election to ram through another policy that the public, that the people have said that they don't want," she said.

Attorney General-elect Maura Healey said she will "embrace" any immigration reforms ordered by the president.

"We haven't seen action and the crisis continues to grow for families and or communities actually, real strain on law enforcement in the face of inaction," she said. 

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