Young immigrant rights activists in Miami are celebrating and breathing a sigh of relief.
President Barack Obama announced that undocumented young people in the U.S. will no longer have to fear deportation.
His executive order applies to immigrants under 30 who got here before they were 16 years old.
Immigration has long been a contentious and unresolved political issue in Washington, but to Jose Machado, an undocumented 17-year-old in Miami, this is about survival.
“I don’t have to worry about getting sent back,” Machado says. “You know, my mom got deported to Nicaragua last year– and I was left here to struggle. Now I actually have a way to work.”
Niouseline St. Jean is 21 years-old. She immigrated from Haiti with her family when she was a little girl.
She was granted temporary protected status after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
Since then, she has been effectively shielded from deportation. She says, however, not all her friends were able to receive the same reprieve.
“When I heard this, I was like ‘I am so happy right now,” St. Jean says. “I am overjoyed.’ To know that my friends are safe and they are not going to get deported — finally.
St. Jean says she felt guilty for years that she was protected while many of her friends were not.
Immigration advocates say they are relieved but are hoping for a more permanent solution. An executive order can be overturned by the next sitting president.
The executive order is similar to the DREAM Act supported by some members of Congress. That bill would protect young undocumented immigrants who are in college or the military and provide a fast-track to citizenship, but was voted down.
Friday’s executive order does not provide an additional path to citizenship.