At 19 years old, Jose Machado has already been living without his mother for several years. She was deported back to Nicaragua, where he was born, for driving without a license.
“The state was not aware that we were here without any parents. They were not aware about our living conditions. So I presented myself to the authorities, the process began, and I ended up in a Jewish foster home,” Machado said.
He was one of approximately 50 other people gathered with the Florida Immigrant Coalition Thursday night to watch President Barack Obama's announcement of an executive action on immigration. The action will provide temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants.
To qualify, an immigrant must have been living in the U.S. for more than five years and must have children who are law-abiding citizens or permanent residents.
“After hearing him speak, I have a range of emotions, from being a little optimistic to being disappointed, because he now made us look like an enemy to the country,” Machado said.
He was not the only one who felt this way.
Marleine Bastien, chair of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, felt that President Obama’s deportation relief was a step in the right direction but wished more could have been done.
“Many of our brothers and sisters were crying [after President Obama’s announcement] because they believe that they waited too long. And now, many of them are excluded from this relief,” Bastien said.
For people like Sandra Bisso, a server at a banquet hall, it seems like the end of the road to citizenship. Although she moved from Argentina to the U.S. 14 years ago, she’s living here illegally -- and so are her children.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform, especially one that doesn’t classify us as second-class citizens," she said in Spanish.
Bisso holds the Republican Party responsible for immigration troubles.
“I would tell the Republicans to quit being extremists, to quit being discriminatory, and to quit playing around as leaders,” she said. “We all know the immigration reform did not pass because… they’re 100 percent racists.”
But Marleine Bastien still hopes Obama’s executive action does not prevent Congress from finding a political solution to immigration.
“This is not about political party. This is not about ideology. This is about families and children who are suffering and need relief, so we applaud the president for this decision,” Bastien said. “He could have gone further. We hoped he would have gone big, but we thank him.”
The audio version of this story was produced by Jessica Meszaros.