This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It was appropriate that the sun shone brightly Friday on Suyin Chong as she stood on the Utah Capitol steps with fellow undocumented immigrants and activists celebrating President Barack Obama's new immigration orders.
"With this, we can get out from the shadows," said Chong, who left Mexico (to where her Chinese grandfather had immigrated) to escape drug violence and seek a better life. She has four children who are U.S. citizens because they were born in America.
Such family members of citizens if they have lived in America for at least five years and have a clean criminal record can now pay fees and apply to remain in America legally for at least three years, and obtain permission to work legally.
"We can make better kids, better citizens" by living and working in the open without fear of deportation, Chong said. "Thank you so much Mr. President."
While the group at the Capitol cheered the new action, it also lamented that Obama's orders help only about half of the undocumented population and provides no pathway to citizenship for anyone. So it called on Congress to pass comprehensive reform.
But the group wanted mostly to cheer. It chanted with vigor, "Si, se puede," (Yes, we can) to applaud Obama's changes and show hope for more.
"Thanks to this new law, I woke up this morning in tears. And these tears are not from sadness. These tears are a reflection of happiness," said Maria Berenice Cruz, another immigrant from Mexico who has three children who are U.S. citizens.
She said after fearing every day for 17 years that she could be deported at any time, she loved the new secure feeling that "we will not be separated."
Jennifer Mayer, president of the Coalition of La Raza, said she works at an elementary school. "I had a student tell me this morning that she doesn't have to be afraid anymore that they are going to come take her mother away…. There are a lot of happy people in our city."
"This is an historic day," said Luis Garza, executive director of Comunidades Unidas.
But Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said his phone has also been ringing off the hook with undocumented immigrants who were not helped.
"They are saddened that it didn't go far enough. My message to them is this is the first step," he said. "We will continue to fight for more."
Ella Mendoza, with the Salt Lake Dream Team, qualified herself two years ago for deferred action under an earlier Obama order as a "dreamer," because she was brought to the country at age 12 by her parents. But she is sad that Obama chose not to offer deferred action also to the parents of dreamers.
"We want more. We demand more. The right to live as a human being, the right to have a house, the right to have a job, the right to have freedom, the right to walk in the streets without fear, that is a right by being born. That is not something we should be fighting for," she said.
Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said Obama's action for the undocumented "is a significant advance to affirm their civil liberties." But she lamented the action is only temporary and only covers some people.
Archie Archuletta, past president of the Coalition of La Raza, urged immigrants to keep fighting for reform. "We need to show the same courage for this cause that the president has."
"We will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and we will not stop until we get a clear path for citizenship," said Loretta Velaochaga, with the Enriching Utah Coalition. "We will not stop until every immigrant no longer has to face the constant fear of deportation."