Phoenix: Hispanics who came to the United States as the children of illegal immigrants reacted with joy to an Obama administration rule change on Friday that could spare them deportation, but opponents slammed it as an outrageous act of amnesty.   

"It hasn't really sunk in entirely, but I feel a sense of joy and happiness because I know this is really going to change my life," said Justino Mora, 22, an undocumented computer science student at the University of California Los Angeles.   

Mora is among an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants up to 30 years old who came to the United States as children and will benefit by the surprise order announced by President Barack Obama..   

"I will have the opportunity to ... create my own business so that I can help ... my family financially and create the jobs that the U.S. needs," Mora told Reuters.   

The rule change applies to people like Mora who do not pose a risk to national security and who will now be eligible to stay in the country and apply for work permits. Mora came to the United States at age 11 from central Mexico with his mother.   

Those eligible under Obama's plan must have come to the United States under the age of 16 and lived in the country for at least five years. They must be in school or have graduated from high school or be honorably discharged from the U.S. military. They also must not have been convicted of any felony or significant misdemeanor offenses.   

For 18-year-old Phoenix high school honors graduate Yolanda Medina, the rule change means a shot at studying at the city's Grand Canyon University in the autumn and the chance to escape a life toiling in menial jobs open to illegal immigrants.   

"Most of us ... are forced to take jobs like cleaning houses, cleaning someone's car or babysitting, when you have so much more to offer," said Medina, who came to the United States with her mother from Durango, Mexico, at age 3.   

Gaby Pacheco, an immigration rights activist from Miami who appeared on a Time magazine cover story this week about illegal immigration, said, "Today we've come closer and closer to being full-fledged Americans."   

"We have been freed from the fear that we have of being deported," Pacheco, who came from Ecuador at age 7 and is now 27, told a conference call with reporters.     

'Outrageous Announcement'   

There are about 11 million illegal immigrants living, working and studying in the shadows in the United States, some 1 million to 2 million of whom came to the country as children. Most U.S. illegal immigrants are Hispanics.   

How to deal with the issue divides Americans in an election year marked by a tough economy, and the rule change angered some. Obama, a Democrat, is courting the fast-growing Hispanic population as he seeks re-election on Nov. 6 against Republican Mitt Romney, who has taken a tough stand against illegal immigration.   

At a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, called Obama's move an "outrageous announcement" designed to "grant backdoor amnesty" to a large portion of illegal immigrants.   

"Now is not the time to grant broad amnesty to nearly 1 million people," said Brewer, who has clashed repeatedly with Obama over immigration and was pictured wagging her finger at him in a meeting at a Phoenix airport earlier this year.    

"And now is not the time to approve something via executive fiat that the president knows he could never get through Congress," she added.   

Brewer called the policy a "pre-emptive strike" against the U.S. Supreme Court and its upcoming decision on Arizona's controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants.   

The court is expected to rule as early as Monday on blocked sections of the Arizona law, including a provision requiring police to determine the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally.   

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican who made an unsuccessful bid for his party's presidential nomination, said,

"This administration has failed to provide a secure border, which is essential to national security, and is instead granting blanket amnesty to those who have broken our laws."   

For Mark Renner, 50 and unemployed in Phoenix, the administration's move was simply "ridiculous."   

"The whole problem is they're coming here illegally, they know they're here illegally and they're getting better treatment than citizens of the U.S. as far as I'm concerned," Renner said.   

"Jobs, the healthcare, it's taking away from what we barely have left ... they should go back and do it the right way like everyone else has to," he said.        


Latest News from World News Desk