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In Conn., Mixed Reaction From Immigrants To Obama's Executive Action

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Ebong Udoma
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Undocumented immigrants held viewing parties all over the country Thursday night to watch President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on immigration.

In Stamford, Connecticut, about fifty people gathered in the community room at a social service agency in the city. They watched intently as President Obama delivered his 10-minute speech. When it was over, there were some cries of joy, and some of pain. The agency’s director, Catarina Horak, explained why.

“Your saw people crying here because there was nothing for them," Horak said. "And then you saw people crying of joy because their parents are going to be able to get something.”

Obama’s executive order would give work permission for immigrant parents who have American-born children, and have been here for the past five years. Many of the undocumented don't fit that category and are not covered. Though Obama’s executive order is expected to cover about 5 million people, there may be another six million immigrants that would not be covered.

Lucas Codognolla is with Connecticut Students for a Dream – a group of young people who’ve been agitating for immigration reform and got relief from deportation after Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, two years ago.

Codognolla and his group had disrupted Obama at a Nov. 2 campaign rally for Governor Dannel Malloy in Bridgeport. At that time, they yelled at the president to take action. On Thursday night, Codognolla reflected on the action Obama had just taken.

“It’s a historical moment for all of us. But I want to say there are still a lot of people who are not going to qualify for this.” Codognolla said.

Their struggle is not over, Codognolla said.

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Credit Ebong Udoma
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Lucas Codognolla of the activist group Connecticut Students for a Dream, at the Stamford viewing party on Thursday Nov. 20, 2014.

“Just like when DACA passed we said we are going to be pushing for our parents to be included and we got to this announcement. I think we are going to be continuing holding our politicians accountable.” Codognolla said.

Marina Forero used to run a South Norwalk social services agency. She’s worried that the president’s action is temporary, and that it does nothing for family members who’ve already been deported.

“I know moms here with American kids who are waiting to see if the father can come back because he was deported. This is not the way we want little kids American kids to grow up.” Forero said.

In the meantime, many immigrants are looking to find out more details about Obama’s executive order to see how many of their loved ones will be covered.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.