New Orleans Immigrant Community: New Obama policy good first step

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 15 at 6:22 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- The Obama Administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law abiding lives.

There are hundreds of so called "undocumented dreamers" now living in the shadows in the New Orleans area.

"You're told by your family not to say anything to anybody, just to keep going to school and living your life, but that if you say something, police or immigration are going to come and take you from your home and separate you from your mother and your father," said Tania Mattos.

Mattos's parents came to Louisiana from Bolivia 24-years ago when she was just a child.

At the time her parents did not have the proper papers to live and work in the U.S.

As an illegal immigrant, Mattos could not get a social security number, drivers license or even a loan for college.

"I put my self through college. I can't receive any loans or financial aid so I worked three jobs at a time to pay for my college."

The Obama Administration is now making allowances for people like Mattos.

Undocumented immigrants will now be immune from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are younger than 30.

They must also have no criminal history and a high school diploma or GED.

The policy also requires the young person to have been in the country at least five continuous years.

"Obviously, there's excitement about this news," said Martin Gutierrez who heads up community services and the Hispanic ministries for the New Orleans Catholic Charities.

Gutierrez says the policy change is a good first step.

"But, we are still hopeful that sooner, rather than later we will be able to enjoy some comprehensive immigration reform."

While she may be undocumented, Tania Mattos says she is also unafraid and unapologetic and she says she'll stop at nothing short of a path to citizenship for her and her family.

She helps lobby for citizenship through a group called "Dreamactivist Louisiana.

"My life is here," said Mattos. "I feel more of an American than a Bolivian. I know the system here. It's almost like learning a whole new system and how to live. I would really have no one there. My family is all here. My friends are all here." Congressman Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana blasted the Obama Administration's new policy.

He released a statement saying: "This latest election year ploy to grant amnesty to illegals is not only an abuse of power, but it also sends the wrong message to the millions of people who play by the rules to become legal residents of our great nation."

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