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How One Family Is Reacting To Obama's Immigration Plan

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How One Family Is Reacting To Obama's Immigration Plan

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How One Family Is Reacting To Obama's Immigration Plan

How One Family Is Reacting To Obama's Immigration Plan

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This week, President Obama announced an executive action to protect millions from deportation. NPR's Tess Vigeland speaks with Arlete Pichardo about her reaction to the news, and how it will affect her family.

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

Arlete Pichardo was also watching the president's action closely this week. She's 25 years old and a student at UCLA. Almost 20 years ago, Pichardo emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with her parents. The family had a visa at the time, but it has long since expired.

Pichardo's mom had two more kids after arriving in the U.S., so they are American citizens. When President Obama enacted DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Pichardo qualified, and she is now one of the immigrants known as DREAMers. The president's announcement Thursday means her mom can also now stay in the country without fear of deportation. I asked Pichardo what it was like to watch the speech.

ARLETE PICHARDO: You know, to be honest with you, it was very nerve-racking. A lot of mixed emotions the whole day - I mean, I went to go see my therapist that day. That's how intense it was, because it was really nerve-racking.

VIGELAND: Why? How so?

PICHARDO: Well, you know, it just took me back to two years ago when he made his first announcement. It's like you're happy because you know you're going to qualify, but your miserable because you know so many of your friends and family members are not going to. So it's that bittersweet feeling.

VIGELAND: Arlete, I understand you spoke to your mom right after the speech. What was that conversation like?

PICHARDO: I was like in tears, you know? It was just so many mixed emotions feeling that finally after 20 years of living here, you know, my mom was getting protected, you know, at least, and, you know, we won't have that fear of being separated. So I was a hot mess. Like I was crying, you know? I had the boogers rolling. It was dramatic.

VIGELAND: Was she crying?

PICHARDO: No, she was fine. She was like, you know, it's about time this happened. So of course she's relieved. And of course, you know, it takes a little bit of weight off your back. But, you know, she's very critical, too, and very analytical. And she's like, you know, this is not the answer to the immigration problem we have. This is not going to solve the problem of 12 million people undocumented, you know?

VIGELAND: Arlete, there are certainly members of your community, people who are not authorized to stay in the country, who will not be covered by the president's order. Do you feel any sense of, for lack of a better word, guilt as your family...

PICHARDO: Of course.

VIGELAND: ...Has an opportunity when others don't?

PICHARDO: Of course. I mean, I live with five people. One of my roommates, he was born here, so he's a U.S. citizen. So no concern. Then there's four of us who are undocumented. But all four of us qualified for the first DACA, which was for students - the DREAMers. But out of us four, only two of us have parents who are going to qualify, because we have younger siblings who were born here.

The other two, unfortunately, don't have any brothers or sisters who were born here, so their parents don't qualify. And it's just devastating. Like I heard some of those calls where they had to make to tell their parents like you don't qualify. And it's just like so heartbreaking, you know? They're still going to live with that fear. They're still not going to qualify for healthcare reform. You know, they're still going to be dehumanized. They're still going to continue to be persecuted and be second-class citizens. And it's just horrible.

VIGELAND: Well, as you know, there are no guarantees with this executive action. In a couple of years, another president could come in and reverse the policy. So as you think about your family's situation, how do you weigh that possibility?

PICHARDO: You know, I feel like something people don't understand is I have lived undocumented in this country for 19 years. I've only been documented for one year. If they take it back, I wouldn't be - like it wouldn't be the end of the world. Does that make sense? Like the percentage of my life that I've actually been documented has been like 0.01, you know, in comparison to the rest of my life. So it's like you can't take something away from me that you really didn't give me. Because they didn't give me a pathway to legalization. They just gave me a Band-Aid.

VIGELAND: Arlete Pichardo, thank you so much for being with us.

PICHARDO: Thank you so much. Have a good day.

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