DREAM Act supporters celebrate executive order allowing work permits

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Students chant in front of Littlefield fountain Friday afternoon in celebration of President Obama’s executive order to halt the deportation of young immigrants and allow those who met certain criteria to apply for work permits.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

On Thursday, UT graduate Daniel Olvera would not have been able to apply for a high school job teaching social studies because of his undocumented status. Today, it is a different story.

President Barack Obama made an executive order Friday morning halting the deportation of young immigrants if they came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and lack a criminal history. The executive order also allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a two-year work permit if they meet the above requirements and are under the age of 30.

“This is relief; it is something that will grant release to nearly one million students who are undocumented right now,” Olvera said.

“Dreamers,” a term people who support the DREAM Act use to describe themselves, and members of University Leadership Initiative gathered in front of the Littlefield fountain Friday, chanting, shouting and holding up signs in celebration and support of Obama’s recent executive order. The University Leadership Initiative is a UT organization that advocates for the DREAM Act, a bill that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. At the celebration, many members said while they are happy for the executive order, they will continue to push for the DREAM Act.

Obama has supported the DREAM Act since he was a senator. In December 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act but failed to pass 60 votes in the Senate.

In a statement Friday, Obama said his action was targeted to young people who study in U.S. schools. The president said his executive order would go into effect immediately but was not a pathway to citizenship.

“This is not amnesty, this is not immunity,” Obama said. “This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry released a statement after Obama’s announcement calling the move an “election-year tactic.”

“The laws of this nation are not open to selective, convenient or political interpretation; they are the very foundation of our freedom, and the protections they guarantee make our nation strong and attractive to immigrants around the world — millions of whom abide by our laws and processes and seek legal entry,” Perry said in his statement. “These are decisions that should be thoroughly debated within the halls of Congress.

But Olvera said Obama’s action was not a political move but something he did because it was the right thing to do.

“This is something that happened because of the push and because of the activism of the youth movement nationwide,” Olvera said. “And we managed to make sure President Obama granted us relief before the re-election. If this was a political move, he would have promised to do it after the election, but he did it beforehand.”

Spanish senior Jonathan Hernandez, who is also undocumented, said the University Leadership Initiative will continue to support and push for the DREAM Act.

“This is only the first step,” Hernandez said. “Obama did give us permission to work and he did stop the deportations, but like he said, this is not a pathway to citizenship, which is what we want in the end.”

Hernandez said Dreamers will take advantage of this executive order and prove they can contribute to the country. He said the president’s action was especially important to immigrants who have already graduated.

“They will be able to practice their careers; they will be able to practice what they spent so much time studying here at UT,” Hernandez said. “It’s amazing for all of us. Not just though for us at UT but for future generations who are going to come.”

Alfredo Galvan, a undocumented high school senior, said he was glad Obama took action in support of the Dreamers.

“I can finally get a job. I can graduate from college and not hit a brick wall,” Galvan said. “I can put my degree to work.