Houston family awaits Obama's immigration speech, hopes to qualify for benefits

HOUSTON – Like millions across the country, Alma Rodriguez and her family are anxiously waiting for President Barack Obama's immigration speech to see if they'll qualify for the benefits under his expected executive order.

Alma, her husband and two of her children are undocumented. She has been living in the U.S. without papers for 20 years.

"It makes me sad. It makes me feel helpless because I can't do anything," said Alma.

They are holding out hope that Obama can help.

"I believe what the president is going to do is he's going to open deferred action to everybody. In 2012, he opened it to young adults," said Houston immigration attorney Bruce Coane.

But Coane says he doesn't expected all undocumented immigrants to qualify.

He believes the deferred action-type of status the president is expected to unveil will only protect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Immigrants who qualify would be temporarily safe from deportation and given permission to work, travel, and even get a driver's license.

But opposition to the president's plan is strong.

"President Obama has had numerous opportunities to work with Congress and he doesn't want to. He'd rather operate by executive decree. And again, that's not how things work in America," said Gary Polland, the editor of Texas Conservative Review and former Harris County GOP chairman.

"We all just came here to work, for a better life. We aren't here to cause problems or harm anybody," said Alma.

Depending on the restrictions in Obama's immigration plan, only about 3 million people would qualify for any benefits out of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.