MABLETON, Ga. -- Jesus Cruz was working one of his 10 hour days in the warehouse when he got the call from his lawyer. His deportation proceedings were being halted by a federal judge.
"I was happy and I started calling my family and telling them I wasn't going to get deported, and they were happy too," Cruz said. "They were trying to send me to a country I don't even know."
Cruz's parents brought him here illegally from Mexico when he was 12. Last year, a decade later, he was caught driving without a license in Cobb County. He was flagged for lacking the proper paperwork, and was headed for deportation.
Cruz's lawyer said he didn't have anything like an American spouse or children to offer a sympathetic judge. He'd had his case delayed twice already, but a Monday hearing was looking like the final straw.
"[The Judge] said if we didn't have any resolution by the next time which was [July 16th], then she was going to have him deported," said attorney Julio Moreno. "He would have had to leave this country to go back to a country he doesn't know anything about."
Cruz is one of 15 young clients at the Fogle Law Firm in Atlanta who were facing deportation last month. Then President Obama announced a plan to relax deportations on certain qualified undocumented immigrants.
The policy applied to those who were brought to the US when they were under 16, have been in the country for five years, have no criminal history, have graduated from high school or obtained a G.E.D., or served in the military. President Obama said the move would affect about 800,000 people. Cruz was the first one at the Fogle Firm.
"It changed things a lot here in Atlanta," Moreno said. "Atlanta is known to be one of the toughest immigration courts in the country. "
But Immigration enforcement advocates like D.A. King in Marietta said the policy is a step toward amnesty. The president of the Dustin Inman Society, he reminds voters that the president didn't come into office with a plan to ease deportations for certain people-he announced the decision halfway into an election year.
And King said the focus shouldn't be on innocents like Cruz, but the parents who brought him here and the employers who gave them jobs.
"If we stop illegal employment, we have stopped illegal immigration," King said. "I'm sure this is a very nice kid, it's not his fault. But by the same token, I'm not willing to watch the US constitution be run through the white house shredder to correct something that could be done in congress."
Cruz is hoping Congress will go the other direction-by loosening restrictions on him instead of tightening them. He hopes one day to go to college and follow in the footsteps of his lawyer.
"If they give me a chance, I would like to go to college and become an immigration lawyer to help out people like me," Cruz said. "[My lawyer] changed my life, because even if I'm not from here, he gave me the opportunity to stay here and fulfill my dreams."