Mixed reaction to Obama immigration policy

Jackeline Saavedra, 27, right, who will soon be Jackeline Saavedra, 27, right, who will soon be graduating from Touro Law School, poses at her Bay Shore home with her mother Juana Arizaga. Saavedra, who came to the United States from Peru at the age of 14 along with her mother and brother, was happy to hear of President Obama's decision to stop deportations of some illegal immigrants. (June 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

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When Jackeline Saavedra heard Friday that President Barack Obama was blocking deportations for certain young illegal immigrants, she called out to her mother in their Bay Shore home.

"She cried," said Saavedra, 27, who came illegally to the United States from Lima, Peru, when she was 14.

When her mother became a citizen, Saavedra was an adult, making her ineligible to become a naturalized citizen.

"I am happy beyond words," she said of the policy change. "It will offer me some sort of relief, but at the same time it doesn't offer me a path to permanent residency. We're going to keep fighting."

Saavedra, who graduated from Brentwood High School and Stony Brook University, is now enrolled at Touro Law Center in Central Islip. She plans to become an immigration lawyer.

Reaction to the new immigration policy was mixed Friday, with advocates and immigrants hailing the decision and opponents blasting Obama for bypassing Congress by issuing an executive order.

"The administration is overstepping its authority by weakening immigration laws without congressional approval," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). "I am very concerned about efforts to administratively implement amnesty for countless illegal immigrants under the age of 30."

It's not known how many young adults on Long Island or in New York are affected by the policy change, but an estimated 5,500 students enrolled in the SUNY and CUNY systems are illegal immigrants, said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins of Old Westbury, which focuses on immigration issues. "This is a huge milestone for DREAMERS who have been fighting for years to lead a successful life here in America. It gives them hope," she said.

Children brought here illegally who are now young adults are commonly referred to as DREAMERS, derived from the DREAM Act immigration reform law.

Nadia Habib, 20, of Woodside, Queens, who is facing deportation, along with her mother, after living in the country for more than 18 years, called the change "a step forward."

"It's not a real solution right now," said the Stony Brook University senior, who was born in Bangladesh. "It gives kids work permits for two years and then what happens after that?"

The news surprised Milly, of Suffolk, who asked that her last name not be used for fear she and her family would be deported. Milly, 21, came to the United States from Peru with her parents and siblings a decade ago. Today, she is studying business at Suffolk County Community College.

"I have to see a document or something before I can believe it," she said of the change. "I am so happy, but I just want that confirmation."

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