Gaby Perez, center, smiles as she gets loud applause from other young immigrants, and staff members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, as the immigrants line up to apply for a new federal program, called Deferred Action, that would help them avoid deportation Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Gaby Perez, center, smiles as she gets loud applause from other young immigrants, and staff members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, as the immigrants line up to apply for a new federal program, called Deferred Action, that would help them avoid deportation Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Deferred Action turns one

Dreamers around the nation are celebrating the first anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Exactly one year ago today, President Obama announced that young undocumented immigrants were temporarily safe from deportation, offering them a chance to stay in the country and work.

Reform advocates from United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigrant group, commemorated the anniversary in Washington, D.C.

“Being able to get a driver’s license and a work permit allowed me to travel to Arizona this week and finally see and touch my mother after six long years.   I am proud of the progress our movement has made and the incredible victory of deferred action,” Florida Dreamer Evelyn Rivera says.

RELATED: A year after Deferred Action, Dreamers change their lives and the immigration debate

Gang of Eight member Senator Robert Menendez joined New Jersey Dreamers used the one year mark of DACA to call for passage of the comprehensive immigration reform bill. He said that the spirit of the Dream Act lives on in the legislation currently being debated by the Senate.

“It’s in the economic interest of the United States to harness and develop the talent that all of our young people have to offer. The time has come to allow thousands of young men and women who are kept from enrolling at colleges and universities to finally achieve their full potential, to be participants in American life,” he said. “That’s what the DREAM Act has always been about and that’s what immigration reform is about.”

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, released a statement commending the implementation of DACA, saying it has since allowed him to hire two Dreamers as legislative aides in his office.

“DACA recipients and DREAMers are fighting at my side and alongside the broader pro-immigrant movement to stop the deportations of their mothers, brothers, and neighbors and they are forceful and persistent and fearless,” Gutierrez said. “The President has immense powers under current law to protect DREAMers, to protect spouses and parents in military families, and to remove the fear of deportation from U.S. citizens whose parents we deport in the tens of thousands.

Still, the Illinois Congressman emphasized that DACA was not the end of reform for immigrant youths. He hinted that the President should end deportations of Dreamers’ families too.

“When you meet and talk with DACA recipients and other DREAMers… it is crystal clear that the future of our nation is in very good hands, unless we do something stupid like break up their families or deport them,” Sen. Gutierrez said. “The President has immense powers under current law to protect DREAMers, to protect spouses and parents in military families, and to remove the fear of deportation from U.S. citizens whose parents we deport in the tens of thousands.”

RELATED: Outrage over House amendment to deport Dreamers, stricter Senate immigration measures

However, in the year since DACA was enacted, the program has seen significant opposition from Republicans. Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King introduced an amendment last week to reverse DACA; it was passed 224-201 last Thursday, though it is not expected to become law.

Since President Obama announced the new policy one year ago, an estimated 500,000 young immigrants have applied. According to Menendez’s office, more than 497,965 applications have been approved.

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