Young illegal immigrants block freeway ramps, cheer Obama
More than 100 jubilant college students and graduates -- some of them undocumented -- rallied in downtown Los Angeles on Friday in support of President Obama’s decision to halt deportations of young illegal immigrants.
At the L.A. Civic Center, the demonstrators chanted, “We are the Dreamers, the mighty, mighty dreamers” and moved off the sidewalk and sat in a long train blocking Aliso Street, from Los Angeles Street to Alameda Street. They were also blocking entrance ramps to the 101 Freeway.
Celebratory chants and speeches could be heard outside the federal building at Los Angeles and Aliso streets after the Obama administration announced the policy that will affect young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16.
“Ain’t no power like the power of the people 'cause the power of the people don’t stop,” demonstrators chanted. Others yelled, “Obama you can court us, but you can’t deport us.”
“This is a moment of celebration. This is a step forward in the right direction,” said Dulce Matuz, 27, an electrical engineering graduate who attended college in Arizona. “But we need to keep fighting for long-term legislation.”
Effective immediately, young immigrants under the age of 30 will be allowed to apply for work permits as long as they have no criminal history and are not a threat to national security, federal officials said.
Obama has called for a broad overhaul of immigration policy and embraces the concept of the Dream Act, which would create a path for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to legally remain in the country. The legislation has repeatedly stalled in Congress.
Justino Mora, 22, an undocumented student who attends UCLA, said he was skeptical of the announcement at first.
“At the beginning I sort of didn’t believe it,” he said, “but then almost immediately I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy. It gives me hope, it motivates me to continue fighting for my family, for my community.”
Ricardo Muniz, 24, was en route to the rally downtown when he got the news. "I can breathe," he said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday said the U.S. would stop deporting young immigrants who came to the country as young children and who do not pose a security threat.
The change would allow illegal immigrants who meet the criteria to stay and possibly work in the country under a deferred deportation which would last two years but could be renewed.
Those who are convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons and repeat offenders of immigration law would not be eligible.
-- Esmeralda Bermudez in Downtown L.A.
Photo: Young illegal immigrants block streets in downtown L.A. Credit: Melissa Leu / Los Angeles Times