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Obama's Immigration Action Bittersweet For Many Families

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The executive action President Obama announced last night was a bittersweet moment for many immigrant families. While some people gained the chance to, as the president said, come out of the shadows, many of their parents did not. We're going to talk now with someone who is facing that conflict in her own life. Rocio Andiola lives in Mesa, Arizona. She first came to the United States from Durango, Mexico at age 15. She is now the mother of two teenagers born in the U.S., which makes them citizens. In 2012, when DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program began, Andiola did not qualify.

ROCIO ANDIOLA: I was actually 32 years old. And I was - I had to be before 31. So I didn't qualify for it because I was a year older.

SIEGEL: Under the original DACA program, you had to be born on or after June 16, 1981. Last night, President Obama removed that age cap. So with the expansion of DACA and with the addition of immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens, Andiola should now qualify for a temporary reprieve from deportation.

ANDIOLA: It's going to be a really nice life to be here without fear. Like just living a normal life, not thinking that any time you can be stopped by the police can be deported at any time. But, at the same time, I'm sad because my mom is undocumented and she doesn't have any U.S. citizen kids here. So she's still going to continue in the shadows. So that's what makes me sad, you know?

SIEGEL: And how many years has your mother been here in the United States?

ANDIOLA: She has been here for 16 years. She actually came here running away from domestic violence. So it's sad because she is going to still - going to be scared of someday - she actually - right now, she was about to be deported two years ago. And at the end she wasn't deported, but we know she can be deported at any time because she's just here temporarily. She has a permit to be here but she is not secure here, you know? Anytime immigration says, you need to go, she'll need to go or they can just deport her anytime they want.

SIEGEL: What do you say to people who might have relatives who are waiting to immigrate legally from another country? And who say that, well, Rocio and her mother, they knew very well that they were coming here without the appropriate visas or green cards. And why should someone who's applying legally come here any later than somebody who violated immigration laws to come here?

ANDIOLA: You know, a lot of people don't know how much of a struggle it is to get a visa or to come here legally. My mom tried a lot of times because of the domestic violence. She wanted to run away from my dad. She went in different states in Mexico and it was the same thing. So it was terrible. And she - the last option she had is to come here illegally. And I think it's about compassion, you know? I know we - or, she made a mistake to bring us here or - if I can call it like that - but we are here now, and all we are asking for is relief for families who are now being separated because it has been years and years.

SIEGEL: Well, Rocio Andiola, congratulations on your new - what will appear to be your new status and thanks very much for talking with us today.

ANDIOLA: You're very welcome.

SIEGEL: Rocio Andiola spoke with us from Mesa, Arizona. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.