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Immigrants Wait To Hear Who Will Qualify For Executive Action

Image: Undocumented NJ Residents Seek Deferred Action From Immigration Officials

Immigrants attend a press conference for families facing deportation on November 20, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. They called on President Obama to legalize a broad spectrum of illegal immigrants, ahead of his scheduled speech. The immigrants proactively presented papers for deferred action for deportation proceedings at the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), office at Newark's Federal Building. John Moore / Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- As Irvis Orozco digested the details of the president’s planned immigration executive action, he felt simultaneously hopeful and let down.

Now 27, Orozco has been in the country since he was 6 years old, when his mother brought him from Veracruz, Mexico with her. They are both in the U.S. illegally. But Orozco’s four sisters are all U.S. citizens because they were born here. He is in the midst of applying for deferred deportation status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.

Based on early details that have been seeping out what immigration reforms the president will order, Orozco is hopeful his mother might qualify for temporary protection from deportation and get a permit to legally work, since she is the mother of U.S. citizen children.

The president's executive action is expected to provide relief from deportation to parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, regardless of the children's age, making nearly 4 million immigrants not legally here eligible. The president is scheduled to announce full details in an 8 p.m. speech that will be carried on cable stations and online.

But Orozco is aware these steps will divide him and other immigrants into “haves” and “have nots.”

“It’s a long time coming,” said Orozco, who was attending a conference in Washington. “Even if he helps 5 million, that still leaves half the undocumented immigrants out and in limbo. They are still vulnerable and that’s why Congress needs to act.” There are an estimated 11.2 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

Orozco for several months has been working in Washington on immigration with the California Dream Network trying to help young immigrants.

Orozco understands that limbo. He was accepted to University of California, Los Angeles; UC Davis and UC Berkeley after graduating from high school in 2005 and had to turn all the acceptances down because as an immigrant without legal status, he could not afford the required out-of-state tuition. He worked in the fields with his farmworker mother so he could afford courses at UC-Davis, where he enrolled in 2007. It took seven years, but he graduated in June 2014 with degrees in international relations and economics, helped in part by California's passage of a law allowing in-state tuition for students without status.

For Dinorah Fierra, 51, of Dallas, the potential relief is "like a light" in her life. She fled an abusive and alcoholic husband in Mexico and has a 10-year-old U.S. born son. "I know we won't be residents or American citizens, but I can stay here and work legally," said Fierra, who worked as a teacher in Mexico and came to the U.S. on a visa that long ago expired. She said the potential deportation deferral would help alleviate her fear of being separated by her son for which she said she had no Plan B should she be deported.

One of the best known - and outspoken - faces of the immigrant youth movement is that of Erika Andiola, who is a co-chair of the DRM Action Coalition, a group that has protested Democrats, Republicans and President Barack Obama, pressuring them to reform immigration laws.

She became emotional Wednesday on MSNBC's The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart as she described how hard it has been to read the details of Obama's planned announcement and see that her mother, Maria Guadalupe Arreola, who has a deportation hearing coming up, may not be included.

"It's a bit hard just to think of that because everything I've done within this movement has been for my mom and she's been that inspiration for me. I'm not going to stop fighting for her. We are not going to stop fighting one by one those cases that are not going to be included in this," said Andiola, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. Erika is shielded from deportation through DACA, which Obama enacted in 2012 through executive order.

Alma Reyes of Corona, N.Y., was celebrating the possibility that her American citizen child may qualify her, but her happiness was tempered by the reality that her good friend, whom she didn't want to name, would not qualify because she is single and has no U.S. citizen or legal resident children, though she has been in the country 13 years, works hard and has never gotten into any trouble.

"She said 'I am so excited about (Obama's announcement), but I told her, well there's rumors it might only apply to parents of young citizens," said Reyes, who has been in the U.S. 22 years. "It broke my heart."

Reyes said she has neighbors and friends in church who are in similar situations, but have worked hard are not very young and have roots in the U.S.

"Unfortunately," she said, "they won't have the hope, but I don't lose hope for them."

--NBC Contributor Patricia Guadalupe contributed to this report