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Some Immigrants Relieved After Deportation Changes


News of today's action on immigration spread quickly, especially among the young people who will be directly affected. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, their initial sense of jubilation and relief was tempered by a desire for more.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Pedro Ramirez is a 23-year-old graduate student of public policy in Southern California. A few years ago, he made headlines when, as student body president of Fresno State, he revealed his support for the DREAM Act, in no small part because he is undocumented. This morning, Ramirez was elated.

PEDRO RAMIREZ: I'm just super glad, you know? It's a change that's been long overdue from the president. So I'm definitely very, very happy.

GONZALES: Ramirez says his parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was about three years old. He's never returned to the land of his birth.

RAMIREZ: And it also gives us an opportunity to show the American people that we're here to contribute to the country. We're here. We're ready to work. We're ready to pay taxes.

GONZALES: For 24-year-old Adriana Sanchez, the word came through a flurry of texts and Facebook messages.

ADRIANA SANCHEZ: I could not believe it. I was very excited not just for myself because this would definitely benefit me but excited for all my friends.

GONZALES: Both Sanchez and Ramirez say they have hesitations about the president's announcement. A work permit is not the same as legal residency. And the president's action is not a permanent solution, according to Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: It's just for now and under President Obama. And if it comes to the elections and Mitt Romney wins, he can just undo it.

GONZALES: Still, Ramirez and Sanchez applaud today's move which they say recognizes that there are hundreds of thousands of kids who were brought here through no fault of their own. But not everyone agrees that the government has an obligation to help those young people. Bob Dane is a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which advocates immigration limits.

BOB DANE: If you accept that theory and you enact the DREAM Act, the problem is we have that same moral obligation then for the next round of illegal aliens who bring their kids here and the round after that and so on and so forth. So this becomes a very flawed morality merry-go-round that just perpetuates.

GONZALES: That sentiment was echoed by supporters of tougher immigration measures around the country today - among them, Dustin Chipley in Phoenix, Arizona, a state where immigration has been at the center of the political debate.

DUSTIN CHIPLEY: I believe they should not stay in the U.S. if they did not properly go through the correct channels to get and obtain their citizenship here in America like everybody else has because that takes away from our rights.

GONZALES: That view is also a reminder of the tension over immigration policy as the political season heats up. Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.