THEIR CHANTS filled the tiny taqueria, lifting high above the din of the blasting televisions that had just shown President Obama's address.
"SI SE PUDO!"
"We did it!"
Dozens of illegal immigrants - some children, some with children of their own - packed into Taquitos de Puebla, on 9th Street near Ellsworth in South Philly, last night to hear President Obama announce his much-touted reforms to the nation's immigration policy.
And few in that crowded room were as happy as Carlos Rojas.
"I'm able to come out of the shadows and live without fear," Rojas, 43, said through a translator provided by Juntos, an immigrant-advocacy group that organized the watch party.
"I'm going to keep fighting for my community, and after this, I believe I can be a stronger leader."
Rojas moved to South Philly about 16 years ago from his native Mexico to "get a future for his family."
Although he's an illegal immigrant, he says he pays his taxes and works hard, pulling long hours at two food-service jobs.
Because he's been in the U.S. for so long, and has two kids who were born here, deportation is no longer a threat that he has to live with, per Obama's reform.
That means that simple, everyday tasks that were once a struggle have become instantly easier. Now, he no longer has to drive without a license. Now, he no longer has to pay for every medical checkup or doctor's appointment out of pocket.
"This is not the end, but it will lead to something big," Rojas said.
Still, the victory was bittersweet, because some of Rojas' peers don't qualify under the new regulations and are still targets for deportation.
People like Mauro, another South Philly resident.
Mauro, a construction worker who declined to give his last name, has been fighting a deportation case for almost three years, he said.
He moved to the United States to support two sons who stayed in Mexico to pursue their educations, he said. His older son is studying architecture in college; the other son, just months from graduating from high school, also dreams of higher education.
"That is the reason I fight - their dreams," he said.
Ironically, because he has no children to support in the U.S., he's not eligible for the same deferment Rojas will receive.
Despite that, last night's announcement made him "very happy."
"I still get satisfaction," Mauro said through a translator. "I will still support my neighbors, even if I don't benefit today."