HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
"You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That's what this deal is."
President Obama used those words in announcing his executive orders on immigration Thursday. Those orders would affect millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., including an estimated 30,000 in Hawaii.
"For a lot of really, really good people with U.S. citizen spouses and U.S. citizen children, there's nothing for them," said Honolulu immigration attorney Clare Hanusz.
But that has changed for some of them with President Obama's announcement. Hanusz said it may not lead to citizenship, but it stops deportations, which are often traumatic for families.
However, there are requirements.
"If you've been in America more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation," said the president.
"I'm the father of a nine-year-old U.S. citizen, I lived here for the last 16 years. I consider this place my home," said Antonio, one of the thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States from South America, and who now lives in Hawaii.
"Even though I was not legal, I've been paying my taxes from day one," he said. "I've been trying to be the same way that a person that is from here is."
Last September, the Department of Homeland Security began proceedings to deport him. Those proceedings have come to a halt, at least for now.
It will still be several months before Antonio and others will be able to even apply to avoid deportation. But Hanusz said this is the time for immigrants to get good legal advice and to begin gathering documents to prove they qualify.
"I'm super excited," said Antonio. "I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I'm happy. I'm overwhelmed."
"For people like Antonio, for dozens of people I can think of in our state and their families, this is huge," said Hanusz.
"This is 'pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate' kind of huge."