Harrisburg community reacts to new immigration policy

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

President Obama's new immigration plan will protect 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, some of whom live right here in Central Pennsylvania.

Flory Garcia is one of them. But For Garcia -- Harrisburg is home. She and her husband fled Guatemala 11 years ago. Gang violence and lack of work brought them to the U.S.

"We came here with no documents but at the same time, we just want to work," she said.

But Republican Congressman Scott Perry disagrees with undocumented workers coming here illegally -- even if it is for a better opportunity. "We're going to be paying for this. It puts not only the people that have waited in line lawfully to get into this country at the back of the line but it also now puts people that are looking for a job behind," said Representative Perry.

But Father Orlando Reyes with St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Harrisburg disagrees. 65 percent of his congregation he says, is from Latin America. Many of them are undocumented immigrants. He describes them as "living in the dark" -- afraid to talk about their immigration status because they fear deportation. He says one of the biggest issues is the poverty level. The church itself, is one of the poorest parishes in the diocese and so is the majority of the congregation. Many of these parishioners come to the church for medical services, food and even help to pay their rent.

Father Reyes says this new immigration policy will help these people contribute to the local economy, because now these undocumented immigrants can apply for work legally. "It will benefit not just the church but even the businesses around the area, for instance here in Harrisburg. We have so many people with so many talents as well." He added it would provide a better life and security for families like the Garcias.

Flory Garcia and her husband have three kids -- all American citizens. As they watched the President speak Thursday night, it was the kids that were most attentive. "They were asking do you understand what's going to happen or what's going to happen with us?"

Before this new immigration policy, the three kids ranging from 6 to 11-years-old, feared they would be separated from their parents.

"This is going to help unite the family not to separate it and that's what I'm very happy about," Garcia added.

Flory says it will also mean simply being accepted. Thursday night's announcement, she says, was an important step toward changing attitudes when it comes to immigrants in the U.S.

She recounts an evening in July when she says a group of men beat her and her husband simply because they believed they were Mexican. The Garcias filed a police report. She believes because they're undocumented immigrants, the police aren't taking them seriously.

But even after the incident, the Garcias want to put all of this behind them and focus on their new found freedom. Flory says she wants to see her kids succeed and make her dreams of a becoming a professor -- a reality.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.