When Jesus Larios of Pasco was graduating from high school, he thought about going into the Navy.
Now, Larios, 19, who is an illegal immigrant, said he might get the chance, thanks to an administrative change announced Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.
The federal government will stop deporting young adult illegal immigrants who do not present a safety risk and will allow those eligible illegal immigrants to apply for a work permit, according to the announcement.
Larios, a student at Pasco's Columbia Basin College, said that may allow him to join the Navy after college, serve the United States and prove he deserves to be here. He's lived in the United States for the past eight years.
The deferred action on deportation will be available for those who were younger than 16 when they entered the U.S., have lived in the U.S. for at least the past five years, are younger than 30 now, don't have a criminal record and are in school, are a high school graduate or have a GED or were honorably discharged from the U.S. military.
The deferment lasts for two years but can be renewed.
The exact details still haven't been worked out, said Keelcy Perez of Kennewick, an intern with the Tri-Cities OneAmerica committee, part of a Seattle-based immigration advocacy group.
This does not provide a route for those young adults to become citizens. That sort of change would have to go through Congress, said Jazmin Santacruz, organizer for the Tri-Cities OneAmerica committee.
"This is a good step," she said.
Santacruz and others said they still hope for the Development, Relief and Education for Minors, or DREAM Act, which would create a route to citizenship for children of illegal immigrant workers. That, Santacruz said, would allow eligible young adults to get temporary permanent resident status and, eventually, permanent residency and citizenship.
Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement Friday that she will continue to work toward getting the DREAM Act passed so young people who are in college or are serving their country have the chance to stay.
"I strongly support this move as an important first step toward giving young people who have been living in America most of their lives and who have been contributing to their communities a chance to stay in the country they love and a shot at the American dream," Murray said.
Some have said the only reason the Obama administration issued the order is because of the election year, Perez said.
Larios said he doesn't mind if that is the reason. Of course, he and other illegal immigrant young adults can't vote.
The changes mean a 20-year-old Pasco woman could use her nursing degree after she graduates from CBC. She said she just hoped something will change so she can legally work as a nurse.
She and her sister have lived in the United States for 18 years, and the woman said she can't even remember Mexico. They asked not to be named because they were concerned about how it would affect them and their parents.
Now, they may be able to finish school sooner because they will be able to apply for jobs to help pay for college. The woman said it was frustrating to not be able to work to pay for school. Instead, both volunteer.
Her sister, who also is in CBC's nursing program, said they never worried about being illegal immigrants and, for a while, didn't know they were. But they discovered some of the barriers the lack of a Social Security number brings when they couldn't get their certified nursing assistant licenses after completing the Tri-Tech Skills Center program.
Larios said he knows some illegal immigrant students who gave up. They thought they were wasting their time by pursuing higher education they wouldn't be able to use.
He is pursuing a double major at CBC in electrical engineering and biology so he can transfer to a university and finish a bioengineering degree, with the goal of working in research and development.
Yair Barron, 20, of Pasco, said it has been hard sometimes to work toward a degree in biochemistry when he may not be allowed to use it in the U.S.
But Barron, who graduated Friday from CBC, said he has tried to challenge himself and plans to continue to do so at the University of Washington this fall, his next step toward becoming a surgeon.
He's hoping the possibility of a work permit may allow him to get paid for being a tutor, helping to pay for college. For now, he volunteers as a tutor.
Barron said he's never really been afraid of being deported. But since he came to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents at age 14, he said he was conscious of the reality.
"I can get kicked out at any time," he said.
And the reality of being an illegal immigrant can sometimes put roadblocks in the path of students like Barron. Even private scholarships require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to be filled out, he said.
Larios said he had to jump through hoops so he could run for CBC's student body president because the position is considered a job.
But he did run, although he didn't win. And he hopes to run for the position again next year.