Scores of young undocumented immigrants attended a community forum in southern Arizona to learn about recent changes approved by President Barack Obama that temporarily postpone their deportation.
"We've been trying to get the DREAM Act approved for many years, and we haven't been able to achieve it, so young people have been living with the constant fear of deportation to countries they don't even know," Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva, whose office organized the forum, told Efe.
Last month, Obama announced a decision to delay the deportations of undocumented students 30 years old and younger who had come to the United States before age 16, among other things.
"This is a protection so that these students can continue their higher educational studies, go into the Army and get out of the shadow of deportation. We know that it's not perfect, it's not something permanent and its duration will depend in large part on who the next president is," Grijalva said.
He said that although the goal continues to be comprehensive immigration reform, he called the action a "first step" that establishes a basis to help more people within the immigrant community.
Grijalva said that this protection comes at a good time, especially in Arizona, where great fear and uncertainty prevail due to the recent Supreme Court decision authorizing the entry into force of the "show me your papers" provision of the state's immigration law, SB 1070.
This regulation establishes that the police may question the immigration status of people they stop in the course of enforcing other laws.
The lawmaker calculates that in Arizona there are around 100,000 undocumented people who could benefit from the measure pushed through by the Obama administration.
Students like Benjamin Gamez, a "dreamer" who was brought to this country by his parents from Mexico when he was barely 7 months old, believes that this is an opportunity that must be seized.
"I believe that the main message is that all those young people who can qualify should do so, shouldn't hide and shouldn't be afraid," Gamez, now 23, told Efe.
He said that he just wants a chance to be able to contribute to the country where he has grown up and of which he considers himself to be a citizen even though he does not have legal residence.
Christian Villegas, 21, told Efe that for him the important thing is for all young people in his situation to have the opportunity to achieve their dreams: "This is a unique opportunity that we must take advantage of."
The engineering student came to the United States when he was 3 and his greatest wish is to enter the military.
Among the approximately 400 people who attended the community forum was Rosa Vazquez, the mother of four, including an 18-year-old who could be one of those to benefit from the regulation.
"I'm very grateful to President Obama for this opportunity that he's giving our young people, they are the future," Vazquez told Efe. EFE