LOS ANGELES —
Many Hispanics are welcoming the announcement by President Barack Obama that will shield millions of undocumented residents from deportation.
The president's announcement Thursday will provide temporary relief for up to 5 million people illegally living in the United States.
“It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently," Obama said, "or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you."
The president is bypassing Congress and exercising his administrative authority, a move his critics say offers amnesty to those who broke the law.
The president says mass amnesty is not fair, but neither is its alternative.
“Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability, a common-sense middle group approach," he said.
In California's largest city, Los Angeles, many immigrants gathered to watch the televised announcement. While some are applauding, others have reservations.
Diana Ramos, 23 and born in Mexico, said the action will help her parents, who are undocumented but have children who are U.S. citizens. That qualifies them for relief under the plan.
“This brings a lot of hope for my family that we won’t have to live with fear any more," she said.
Pilar Galvez, a U.S. citizen born in El Salvador, said the move will help many who have entered the United States from her native country.
“I am happy that Obama is doing this for families that are working hard to bring better [things] for their families to and bring better to the United States," she said.
In Houston, Texas, another state with a large Hispanic population, Jesus Mejia, a Guatemalan immigrant, was pleased with the president.
He said it is something good, that it is human to understand the situation of an immigrant who came to the United States out of necessity.
But Teresa, a U.S. citizen who came from Ecuador and gave only her first name, wondered if the president was delaying lasting reform by not working with Congress.
Both should be in agreement to produce a plan that will benefit many people, she said. She also worries about undocumented migrants with criminal backgrounds staying in the country.
Obama said his plan will couple tougher border enforcement with deportation of criminals.
But congressional Republicans said they were outraged at the move and accused the president of overreaching his authority.
Xiomara Corpeno of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called the president’s action an important step, but said a lasting solution must do more.
“We know that it has to be bipartisan," Corpeno said. "The Republicans just need to wake up and realize that if they want to include everyone in this country, they need to pass immigration reform.
Obama said he hopes that will happen. Republicans in Congress say it may now be harder.