Demonstrators rallying in downtown L.A. to support the Dream Act legislation. (Photo by Erick Huerta)
Demonstrators rallying in downtown L.A. to support the Dream Act legislation. (Photo by Erick Huerta)

President Barack Obama made a historic announcement today that will allow “Dreamers,” young people without legal immigration status, a chance to have a semblance of a normal life in America. They can live with freedom from fear of deportation and take advantage of new opportunities to work legally.

For many young immigrants in Boyle Heights, the announcement provides immediate relief. Erick Huerta, who pens the “Random Hero” blog, recently noted wryly that the Metro Gold Line takes him right past the Metropolitan Detention Center, where, until today, he could easily end up if he had the wrong random encounter with authorities.

“ serves not only as a reminder of where I could end up, but where others who get caught up in the system do end up,” he wrote.

It also offers hope for the Boyle Heights high school students who had been debating whether to go to a more costly four-year college because they couldn’t legally work. See Boyle Heights Beat’s article on high school students’ path here.

Under the new administration plan, effective immediately, undocumented immigrants will be protected from deportation if they came to the U.S. before the age of 16, are younger than 30 and have been in the country for at least five continuous years with no criminal history.

Eligible “Dreamers” must graduate from a U.S. high school, earned a GED or serve in the military. They can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no current limits on how many times it can be renewed.

As many as 800,000 young illegal immigrants may benefit from the plan.

  “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” the president said today.

Obama also expressed his frustration today with the inability of a divided Congress to pass   the Dream Act which would create a path for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to legally remain in the country. Political analysts have already begun speculating on whether the speech will put renewed pressure on Republicans to appeal to Latinos.

“I’ve said time and time and time again to Congress that ”” send me the Dream Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away,” he said.

While the announcement is undoubtedly good news for many undocumented Latinos in Boyle Heights and beyond, pessimism still remains about the president’s commitment to a broader overhaul of immigration policy. It has been widely reported that the president has deported 1.5 million people since he was elected into office, frustrating many Latinos who voted for him during the 2008 elections because of his promise of immigration reform.

Today, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in downtown L.A. to support the Dream Act legislation.

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