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Undocumented resident students rejoice over immigration policy change

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 3:10 a.m. MDT

Roman Gonzalez Martinez, 17, works with his father landscaping in Lehi on Friday, June 15, 2012. Martinez, a recent Copper Hills High School graduate, is hoping to attend Salt Lake Community College. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Roman Gonzalez Martinez, 17, works with his father landscaping in Lehi on Friday, June 15, 2012. Martinez, a recent Copper Hills High School graduate, is hoping to attend Salt Lake Community College. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY - The decision by President Barack Obama to order change to the nation's immigration policy gives undocumented residents who meet certain requirements a chance to receive a work permit and come out from under the threat of deportation.

That was greeted with tears of joy and excitement from students who may now be in line for work permits, and also from those who support them.

Here are a few of their stories and reaction:

Nora Esquivel, 21, was born in Mexico City and arrived in California at age 6. She left California at 13 and has been in Utah as an undocumented resident for the past eight years.

She is transferring from Salt Lake Community College and will major in environmental engineering at the University of Utah. She said she wants to own her own business.

Nora Esquivel hugs a friend who passed by at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012.  Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6 years old. Esquivel got emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Nora Esquivel hugs a friend who passed by at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6 years old. Esquivel got emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Esquival said she awoke Friday and was getting ready for her day when a friend sent a text message her and said, "'You've to check out Facebook and see what's on there, it's good news.'"

She started reposting everything regarding Obama's order. She said her parents were in disbelief.

"My parents are always pushing me for an education, and this time it reassures them that things are going to be OK for me here," she said.

"There's so many possibilities now because before it was vague," she said. Before, "if I ever do anything wrong, I can be gone and my whole future is pretty much done, but now I can just think about what I can do with my degree and I can see the end of the tunnel."

She said that she can now get a job and work and that the whole point of why she is getting an education is to apply and put herself out there to help people and join in the workforce.

Roman Gonzalez Martinez, 17, works with his father landscaping in Lehi on Friday, June 15, 2012.  Martinez, a recent Copper Hills High School graduate, is hoping to attend Salt Lake Community College. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Roman Gonzalez Martinez, 17, works with his father landscaping in Lehi on Friday, June 15, 2012. Martinez, a recent Copper Hills High School graduate, is hoping to attend Salt Lake Community College. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Simon Gasper, 19, from Guerrero, Mexico, came to Utah at age 5 with his parents and remains an illegal resident.

"I can help them (parents) by getting a better job instead of just manual labor," he said of his reaction to Friday's announcement.

He is attending Salt Lake Community College and plans on eventually earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. He said now he'll be able to work and be able to pay for school toward that degree. And his friends can start looking for work without the fear of deportation.

Gerardo Torivio, 18, came to Utah six years ago from Morello, Mexico, at age 12 and joined an older sister. Their mother came later. Gerardo, an illegal resident, said he plans to transfer from Salt Lake Community College and is undecided about his future path of study.

"I think that is awesome, it has been hard for me to get a job, but with this (change) I think this is good. I don't know what to say," he said in disbelief after learning of Obama's decision.

Gerardo Torivio discusses President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Gerardo Torivio discusses President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

He said that he can now work his own way through college. He said that he did not have a plan on how to pay for college and was just hoping to get a job and somehow pay for school.

"It is going to be easier for me," he said.

Neiva Carellano, 18, came as an 8-month-old from Mexico. She is studying at Salt lake Community College and hopes to transfer to a university.

"I always wanted to study biology, but I was so scared," she said. "I wanted to be a psychologist, but what am I going to do? I can't even get a job."

Friday's announcement changes that: "So I think it's great now, now that I can (get a job)," she said. "Or even to pay for college to help my mom. I won't have to rely on my parents and I can now help them out," she said.

Roman Antonio Gonzalez Martinez, 17, said he will start attending Salt Lake Community College. He is from San Salvador, El Salvador, having arrived at age 11. He is an illegal resident but works with his father in the landscaping business.

Nora Esquivel gets emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt LAke Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012.  Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6-years-old.   (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Nora Esquivel gets emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt LAke Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6-years-old. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"I think it is a good opportunity to all of those that want to make something out of their lives," he said in Spanish. "That would help me tremendously because I could now work legally without a problem," he said. "I think my parents would be thrilled by this because there would no longer be any issues."

Oscar Martinez, 35, Roman Martinez's father, said he was just as excited about the news as his son was.

"It’s great, not for me, but for all the young people who didn’t ask to come here and were brought by their parents," he said in Spanish. "The United States is supposed to be the land of dreams, but for many it is not because many are undocumented."

"As I tell my son, 'This man (the employer) pays very little and if you don’t study then you get stuck with hard work from dusk till dawn and you don’t have a future, so take advantage of this new law,'" he said.

Julie Contreras, 33, is a legal resident. She was born in Chicago but was taken back to Mexico at age 2 and returned to Utah at the age of 15. She has found difficulty in finding work because she has spent the majority of her life in Mexico.

Nora Esquivel gets emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt LAke Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012.  Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6-years-old.   (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Nora Esquivel gets emotional while discussing President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt LAke Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. Esquivel was born in Mexico and came to America when she was 6-years-old. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"I think this is good for those who don't have papers," she said in Spanish. "It appears to me that it is going to be something very good for the United States because the Latino people make up the difference if they are united and they are hard workers."

"If opportunities are given to those people (undocumented), I hope they take advantage of it because the majority are going to benefit from it," she said in Spanish.

Samuel Elias Ortiz, 23, a U.S. citizen, works in the vice president's student office, just graduated from Salt Lake Community College and is now enrolled at the University of Utah as a social work major.

"I think that allowing them (the undocumented) to find employment through a workers permit and giving them some legitimacy here rather then marginalizing them and making it harder for them to live a productive life to American society, I think that is a good step forward," he said.

Simon Gasper discusses President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Simon Gasper discusses President Obama's order to halt deportations of young undocumented citizens at the Salt Lake Community College on Friday, June 15, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

"I have a great appreciation to what it means to come from another country and make it here (United States)," he said.

E-mail: jreyes@desnews.com

Twitter: @_JulianReyes_

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