More than 100 people rallied outside the White House Friday, just hours after the Obama administration announced it will stop deporting Dream Act-eligible youth and begin granting them work permits.
"I feel absolutely ecstatic considering I'm a Dream Act student myself,” said Diana Villa, a 24-year old college graduate who attended the rally. “It's a good first step, I keep saying. Obviously, it's not anything to replace an actual bill, a Dream Act, but it's definitely something that will encourage DREAMers to continue pursuing a college degree or join the military -- just those dreams of contributing to our country and our economy. We've been ready to work, I've been ready to work and contribute to my economy."
The impromptu rally attracted members of Casa de Maryland, Amnesty International, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Casa Ruby, a D.C.-based Latino LGBT community center, among others.
Young immigrants and others spoke to the crowd in both English and Spanish, sharing their experiences living, studying and working in the United States without documentation.
"Amnesty welcomes this," said Jiva Manske, a field organizer for the group. "This is definitely a step in the right direction. This offers relief to a large number of people and at the same time it's just a step. We're still working towards the Dream Act, we're still fighting to make sure that people vote yes on the Maryland referendum."
Though the rally was celebratory, some expressed concern that it doesn't accomplish enough. Villa spoke of older Dream Act-eligible individuals who won't be covered by the new rules, since they affect only those under 30.
"I'm not a big fan of the age gap. I know lots of DREAMers -- I've been in the movement a long time, and I know a lot of Dream elders who have been advocating for Dream Act for a decade now almost," she said. "Most of them are in their early 30s, they have everything other than the age gap, they're eligible for. That's something I'm still really concerned about."
Several people emphasized the importance of standing behind the administration.
“[Like] what the speakers were saying, Mitt Romney gets elected, this would go away in a second,” said Zenen Jaimes, a senior at Georgetown University. “I’m excited to vote for President Obama and support him more.”
Nate Willis contributed to this report.
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