More than 250 members of Maryland's Latino communities met with Obama Administration officials, Saturday, in the Four Corners neighborhood of Montgomery County.
White House officials said they came to listen to and respond to constituent concerns. The long-scheduled meeting came one day after President Obama announced a major change: immigration authorities will generally no longer go after undocumented young people if they entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and have stayed out of trouble, earned a high school diploma, or joined the military.
In liberal Montgomery County, most people we spoke with support the president's new strategy. "I mean, they're innocent kids, and, you know, they're sort of caught in the crossfire," said Tammy Brady. "And I think letting them stay is really the right thing to do."
Kenny McCoy, however, worries about the affordability of President Obama's new policy: "It's wrong because you're burdening the system. And the system is already stressed to the max."
Hundreds of Latino residents gathered at Montgomery Blair High School for the summit with White House staffers, who said they came to offer help now. "Today [Latinos] need access to affordable college opportunities," said Julie Chavez-Rodriguez, who works in the president's Office of Public Engagement. "Today they need access to small business counseling, small business contracting, small business opportunities. And so we're here to deal with the business of today."
The young people in the room said President Obama's directive will help many people. "Actually, my cousin," pointed out Rose Criollo. "She can't have the opportunity that I can have for college -- and she's really dedicated to her studies."
20-year old Erickson Chacaltana, a student at Montgomery College, says the President is playing smart politics: "And when he noticed that we were turning our backs on him, he came right out and said, 'You know what? I'm going to do this law.'" Asked if Mr. Obama's new policy on immigration will deliver more Latino votes, Chacaltana nodded, "Yeah, I think [it] will."
There will be a huge issue affecting the Latino community on the Maryland ballot in November. At the behest of Gov. Martin O'Malley, the legislature has opened state universities to many undocumented young people at "in-state" tuition rates.
Opponents of that law have gathered enough signatures to allow voters to decide the matter at the ballot box on November 6th.