President Barack Obama made immediate, sweeping changes Friday to the immigration policy, a decision that will affect hundreds of thousands living in the U.S., especially in South Florida.
The plan offers immunity to many younger illegal immigrants.
"Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation of these young people," Obama said. "Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization."
About 800,000 people will be affected. They are called "dreamers," for the Dream Act bill, which never made it through Congress.
"Let's be clear. This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said.
Watching the announcement from South Florida was Daniela Pelaez, the high school valedictorian whose avoidance of deportation has made her the poster child for this specific immigration issue. Pelaez, who wants to be a doctor, is an illegal immigrant by no act of her own, as she and her sister grew up as all but American after their Colombian parents overstayed their visa.
"There are so many kids behind me that are just like me, that are good students or good soldiers who want to be part of the military force, and today, it's for them. We shouldn't focus on the politics. We should focus on celebrating the fact that they're going to have a dream, a future, at least for two years," Pelaez said.
Those eligible must be under 30 years old, must have been brought to the U.S. before they were 16, must have been in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years, must have no criminal history and must have graduated from a U.S. high school or served in the U.S. military.
"It makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes are Americans. They've been raised as Americans, understand themselves to be part of this country," Obama said.
A few minutes into his speech, Obama fired back at a reporter from a conservative online publication who interrupted him.
"And the answer to your question, sir, and the next time I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is this is the right thing to do for the American people," Obama said. "I didn't ask for an argument. I'm answering your question. It is the right thing to do for the American people."
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