Locals feel the effects of immigration reform; for better and worse

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- President Obama's announcement on immigration reform changed the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. However, for those left out, it may have made things worse.

"For those folks who actually are going to benefit from this program, this is going to be tremendously popular," said Dr. Peter Siavelis, director of Wake Forest University's Latin American and Latino Studies program. "For those who don't there's going to be some mixed feelings."

This immigration reform only applies to people who have children born in the United States, or those who have been in America for more than five years and have children who are legal residents. However, it is only temporary.

"This normalized status will allow easier transition to citizenship, but it certainly is not a guaranteed path to citizenship," said Dr. Siavelis. "What he's doing is satisfying Latino activists, but at the same time putting the Republicans in a very difficult place right now with respect to their popularity and their status among Latinos."

The immigration reform only lasts three years and it would need to be renewed or new executive action must be taken. It could also be annulled by a future president.

"A lot of people think this is some sort of amnesty or people are getting some sort of citizenship or they're going to get to vote or get the same benefits that all Americans are going to get. That's absolutely not the case," said Dr. Siavelis.

For Natasha Morales Castellanos, and her mother Norma, this has been 15 years in the making. For, 15 years ago, the two of them moved to the United States from Mexico.

"It's definitely been a struggle, we were very unstable for the first few years," said Natasha.

"It was very difficult for me because only my daughter and I came. So, the rest of my family stayed behind," said Norma, with Natasha translating.

Norma had more children in the United States. If she had not, then she would not have qualified. The disappointment of the reform not applying to oneself was something they witnessed firsthand, through a family member who was watching the announcement with them.

"It was very difficult for her, being so happy, and at the same time imagining that he won't qualify," said Norma.

For the millions who do not qualify, this may make living in the U.S. even tougher.

"Potentially, there could be more pressure to sort of discover who they are and potentially take action against them," said Dr. Siavelis.

Dr. Siavelis added that if the actions are annulled by a future president, those who do apply could be harmed in the long term.

"Because if they register, they try to normalize their status, they tell the government who they are, a president comes along later and annuls what Obama just did last night, they could be in a difficult situation," he said.

Yet despite the risks, Norma says the announcement made the last 15 years of fear worth every second.

"Even with all the complications and difficulties that she's faced here, she feels like she would not have been able to accomplish half as much as she has for us [had she stayed in Mexico]," said Natasha.

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