América Yareli Hernández finds it difficult to rent an apartment or obtain a credit card. "It's embarrassing. Peers look down at you," she explained.
Pedro Ramírez has learned to "live in the shadows," which means no driver's license. "We work with the law as much as we can," he said.
Mayra Padilla drives in fear of getting caught, "but pray to God that I don't get pulled over or get into an accident."
The lives of these three undocumented residents (the first two with university degrees and the latter in her last year) turned positive with last Friday's announcement by President Barack Obama has ordered immigration authorities to stop deporting young immigrants who came to the United States as young children and who do not pose a security threat.
"Now, let's be clear. This is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," said Obama in remarks at the White House Rose Garden.
"This is a temporary, stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."
The change is not the DREAM Act that immigrants like Hernández, Ramírez and Padilla have pushed for, but it was good enough to give them hope.
"I heard it as I was driving and I started crying because I felt a sense of relief," said Padilla, a sociology major in her final year at California State University, Stanislaus. "I feel like we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It brings hope and relief to all of us."
Hernández, who will be 29 in a few months, still qualifies for the change directed at immigrants between 16 and 30 years of age.
"I've been waiting for this for so long," said Hernández, who graduated from Fresno State and now lives and works in Chicago. "We know it's limited and it could be gone tomorrow. At the same time, it really provided that sense of hope that many of us had already lost."
Ramírez -- who became the poster boy for the DREAM Act when he was outed as an undocumented student while serving at student body president at Fresno State in 2010 -- woke up when friends started text messaging him and posting on Facebook.
"Initially, I thought it was better late than never," said Ramírez. "I definitely wish it was more permanent, but this was definitely a step in the right direction."
Reaction in the Latino community was mostly positive, while criticism came mostly from ultraconservative circles.
Critics labled the president's move as nothing more than a political effort to court the Latino vote, a violation of the Constitution, or a temporary fix that could be made permanent with Congressional action.
"Even people who might agree with the policy objective that the president is carrying ought to have serious concerns that he is ignoring the constitutional process here," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
He doubts the move will get Obama more votes in the general election. Mehlman pointed to polls showing that Latino voters do not rank immigration reform as a top concern.
"I think what you have here is the administration trying to throw a bone to what they consider to be an important part of their core constituency, while ignoring the real issues that are of concerns to them, which are basically the same concerns of everyone else," he said.
Former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who is running for Congress in his Santa María area, took a more softened response.
"I think it was a great move for (Obama). The timing of it makes it political but I am glad he did it," said Maldonado, a Republican who supports comprehensive immigration reform."
Maldonado said Obama should have taken a stronger stance on immigration reform his first year in office.
"Now, he is trying to make up for his failure to get comprehensive immigration reform in office," said Maldonado. "Still, I applaud him for this decision and I believe it is a step in the right direction."
Democratic lawmakers, like California Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, praised Obama.
"I applaud the president's leadership on this matter and his courage to stand up for those voices in our nation who have been trying to exploit the presence of undocumented immigrants," said Cedillo, who has authored numerous pro-immigrant bills during his time as state Senator and Assemblymember.
Cedillo had no problem with the timing of the announcement
"Justice is always timely. Leadership is always timely and I think the action taken today on behalf of all those millions of families -- many of whom have been here working hard to make ends meet -- will wholeheartedly embrace this new policy," he said. "This is an important victory and it cannot be minimized by timeliness or those from the right who abhor any progress in this matter."
Cedillo believes Friday's action will spur Congress to take up immigration reform, which has been given up for dead ever since Republican Senators backed away from legislation authored by Sen. John McCain and the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"Ultimately, we must have comprehensive immigration reform. We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants and only through Comprehensive Immigration Reform can we reconcile those two characteristics of our great nation," said Cedillo. "We must do that."
The change in federal immigration policy is directed at undocumented immigrants who must meet certain requirements before they can apply for work permits. They must have come to the country before they were 16, and have lived in the U.S. continously for at least five years. They cannot be convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor offense or more than one misdemeanor.
The change could be overturned by a future president, something Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not been specific about.
"With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is," Romney said on CBS' 'Face the Nation' on Sunday.
Whether the change in immigration enforcement will stand up in court is another issue. The "devil is in the details," said Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School.
The new policy, he said, requires an application process, so not everyone will qualify. A major question, he said, will be how people can prove they entered the country before age 16.
Additionally, the policy does not change their legal status, and does not make it easier for them to gain federal benefits or to afford college.
"That is something that people are going to gloss over in the enthusiasm of the announcement," he said.
If Romney is elected in the fall, the policy could be undone, he said.
"What one president can giveth, another president can taketh away," said Yale-Loehr.
Those concerns have done little to temper the enthusiasm of people like Hernández, Ramírez and Padilla.
Hernández had to put aside her dream of becoming a lawyer when she discovered she was undocumented when she entered high school. She has turned down "huge opportunities" because of her status.
"This will be extremely helpful in finding another job. At least now I have choices," said Hernández, who was three months old when she was brought to the U.S.
Ramírez is planning to open a business, something he admits other undocumented immigrants have done because it is legal.
"Iregardless of immigration laws, my long range plan is to finish my master's degree and go into law school," said Ramírez. "Hopefully by then, we'll see what changes of immigration reform are at that point."
Padilla cried when she talked about the fear of being undocumented. Her parents warned her not to talk about it as school for fear other kids would tell their parents.
"So, I learned to keep it to myself," she said.
Today, she is not afraid.
"As you get older, you understand that there are some people you can tell and some others you can't rely on," said Padilla. "The fear has always been there, but you start meeting others in the same situation as you and it feels good to know you are not by yourself."
Balvino Irizarry, a political leader in Modesto, said there is no reason to punish young people for something they didn't do.
"They are some of our brightest and smartest, and they are a lot of our future leaders," he said.
Luis Magaña of the Stockton non-profit Proyecto Voz, said there are many who will benefit from the change.
"This is welcomed news in the Latino community," he said. "There is happiness, but there are doubts still."