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Student Organizers Cheer Arrival of Deferred Action, Brace for Bigger Fight

As President Obama's Executive Order halting the deportation of undocumented youth goes into effect, student leaders are optimistic -- and prepared to keep fighting.

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As the day progressed, more information was released pertaining to the Executive Order. Yet even as this information became available to the protesters during the action, they did not leave. They praised Obama publicly for making what they knew to be a shrewd political decision, but also sent the message that while they were happy with the development, they regarded the administrative relief as just one important step towards comprehensive immigration reform. It would have been easy to go home. But instead, they stayed – and kept fighting.

Expect that kind of passion to be fueling the movement for quite some time. Given the temporary nature of the relief that is about to be granted, Mora and his fellow organizers are well aware that there is much more work to be done – and they are already in the thick of it, currently focused on pressuring Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to make his stance on immigration known. There is concern among organizers that the general public could view the relief as a permanent solution. An electoral victory for a non-sympathetic candidate in November could lead to this relief being removed in the blink of an eye. Moreover, there is still a healthy amount of skepticism directed at the relief itself; ICE’s discouraging record of exercising discretion is not easily forgotten.

Yet there is also a strong feeling that after so many ups and downs, this victory was much needed. For Mario Castillo, an undergraduate student at Occidental College and a past volunteer at CHIRLA, the ability to apply for a work permit and a driver’s license could have an immediate impact. “It will open more opportunities for me,” he said. “[Before the order was announced] I was really worried that I was going to graduate in a year with this excellent education and I wouldn’t have anywhere to go with it because I couldn’t work.” Castillo has always wanted to have a career, to be a professional and be able to provide a service to the country that has provided so much for him. “It gives me hope that I could be more accepted into this society, and contribute, and give back. Because I have received a lot.”

Antezana also regards the order as a sign of better things to come. “Maybe not next year, maybe not in two years, but at some point the country is going to be behind us, supporting us. We’re going to make this happen.”

Jacob Surpin is a writer from Brooklyn, New York. He is currently a student at Occidental College and lives and works in Los Angeles, California.