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Latinos in Utah cheer as President Obama announces immigration overhaul

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Posted at 9:48 PM, Nov 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-20 23:48:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Latinos watched intently as President Barack Obama announced his executive order on immigration. They cheered, clapped, and threw confetti in celebration of what many say is a new lease on life.

"Both my parents are residents, but we have a lot of family that are undocumented and are immigrants to the United States, so I'm very passionate about this issue," said Jessica Bahana, who was among the dozens who sat in an auditorium at Centro Civico Mexicano Thursday night anticipating the announcement.

"We're just delighted the president has finally taken action," said Tony Yapias, the Director of Proyecto Latino de Utah.

He went on to say this was a start, and not a solution: "This is temporary. This is not amnesty. This is only going to give them temporary work permits."

Still, it's a big relief for undocumented immigrants like Raul Rivero, who came to this country from Venezuela in 2003 with a three-year work permit. When it expired, he stayed and built a food business. Rivero said he has a valid driver's license, social security number and even pays taxes but all along, his status has been hanging over his head.

"It's going to affect me in a good way, in a positive way because it's going to give me the legal status which is going to allow me to be legal in the U.S. The most important thing not being afraid to be deported, that's the most important thing," he said.

Yapias said the president's executive order means Latino families will now be able to stay together without fear of deportation. He said often times, a parent leaves for work and never comes back.

State leaders are also reacting to the president's announcement, see below for their statements. Utah business leaders also shared their opinions, click here for their comments.

Statement from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert: "“I am disturbed the president would take such divisive and unilateral action. The American system of government was designed to have laws created by the legislative branch, and those laws faithfully executed by the chief executive. We operate within that system in Utah and expect the same at the federal level. All Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, should be concerned about Pres. Obama’s blatant disregard of his oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Our broken immigration system compromises our national security and hampers our economy. However, the issue must be addressed by Congress. I am afraid the president’s action tonight will only poison the well and make resolution of the matter more difficult.”

Statement from Peter Corroon, Utah Democratic Party Chair: "Salt Lake City – Today, President Obama took a major step forward in reforming our country’s immigration laws. Among other details, the Executive Action ensures that families are kept together and provides an opportunity for documented and undocumented immigrants feel safe in their communities. Utah Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon issued the following statement.

'Our American Dream, and the principles on which our nation is founded, is based on the right for individuals and families to feel safe in their communities and make a better life for themselves,” stated Corroon. “Today, our President, despite the years of dysfunction in Washington, took a major step forward to ensure that families are kept together and our documented and undocumented brothers and sisters have the opportunity to seek the same thing we are all after – a better life for ourselves and our children. Our nation has been seeking immigration reform for decades and whether or not people like the President acting alone using his executive powers, today’s action is a huge step forward to beginning that dialogue and implementing the change our country so desperately needs.'"