For those who had been waiting for the U.S. to stop deporting illegal immigrants brought to this country as children, President Barack Obama's announcement Friday was greeted with jubilation by some, but others say the measure doesn't go far enough.
Douglas Interiano, executive director of Proyecto Immigrante ICS in Fort Worth, said the decision is a relief for younger illegal immigrants.
"For them, it's like a miracle -- it's life-changing," Interiano said. "Even though the new directive doesn't have a road to citizenship, it means they can come out from the shadows, travel with their families and continue their education."
The new policy is expected to affect about 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, have been in the country for at least five years, have no criminal record and are in school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.
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"This is not amnesty; this is not immunity," Obama said. "This is not a path to citizenship; it's not a permanent fix."
Some advocates for immigration change met the announcement with a more tepid response
"Those of us who advocate immigration reform, we're optimistic things will get better," said Luis Castillo, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Arlington Council 4353. "Obama wasn't doing enough, but then again we know Republicans weren't going to do enough. In a way, we're stuck with Obama but we'll certainly take it."
Opponents of more lenient immigration policies said that Obama usurped congressional authority and that the directive goes much further than the administration says it does.
"For all the administration's pious denials that this measure 'confers no substantive right' and 'only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights,' they're lying," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. "The illegal immigrants in question will receive two-year renewable permits to live legally in the United States and an Employment Authorization Document -- that, in English, is what we call amnesty."
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, also blasted the move.
"President Obama's amnesty only benefits illegal immigrants, not Americans, and is a magnet for fraud," Smith said. "Many illegal immigrants will falsely claim they came here as children, and the federal government has no way to check whether their claims are true. And once these illegal immigrants are granted deferred action, they can then apply for a work permit, which the administration routinely grants 90 percent of the time."
Gov. Rick Perry also criticized the directive.
"It's clear President Obama prefers to upend the rule of law, picking winners and losers, rather than work with Congress and the American people on a sustainable, long-term solution," Perry said.
'Free of that fear'
Democrats Domingo Garcia and state Rep. Marc Veasey, who are in a runoff in the District 33 congressional race, voiced support for Friday's announcement.
Garcia said he has been pushing Obama to make this type of decision.
"The last time I spoke with the president in Washington a few weeks ago, as soon as I saw him he said: 'Domingo, I heard you the first three times. We are working on it,'" Garcia said.
Veasey also spoke out in favor of the directive.
"Far too many young Hispanics, despite this being the only country they have ever known, have had to live in constant fear of deportation," Veasey said. "They can now be free to pursue their education free of that fear."
Staff writer Yamil Berard contributed to this report.
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