And so it was that college students
Their secret was out: Despite their upbringing in
middle America, their academic success and their network of native-born
friends, they had no permission to be in
The Robles brothers, now out of jail but fighting removal in Immigration Court, are among thousands of young illegal immigrants in similar situations, living at risk of being expelled to countries they barely remember.
Two weeks ago, a
These immigrants are known in some circles as "Dream Act" kids, named after proposed legislation that would grant them legal status.
Their cases underscore a contradiction in the Obama administration's approach to immigration enforcement. Even though the president supports the Dream Act — which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children who enroll in college or the military — his enforcement bureaucracy continues to pursue deportation cases against the increasing number of students who would be protected by it. It's part of a push that is on track to remove a record 400,000 illegal immigrants this year.
"It highlights the inconsistencies in immigration policies," said
Immigration authorities say they rarely deport students, particularly once their teachers, coaches, friends and elected representatives speak out on their behalf.
Balderas, for example, was placed in "deferred status," meaning the government won't remove him unless he gets in trouble. Even so, the young people remain in legal limbo, often unable to land a professional job after earning a degree. And they live with a legal sword of Damocles over their heads, subject to removal at any moment.
"These cases illustrate the need for comprehensive immigration reform," said
Their father works for a car dealer, and their mother is an assistant at a mortgage company. They came to the U.S. by airplane five years ago on a tourist visa and never went back.
"We want to go to school and to work here,"
Several residents of their community, a Republican-leaning
"Gee whiz, these are just two quality kids," he said. "They are everything you would want your kids to be. These kids are going to be leaders in their communities — taxpayers, not tax recipients."
In recent months, immigration rights activists have renewed their push to persuade
"Immigration reform may be dead this year, but we feel that smaller pieces like ... the Dream Act can move forward," said
The Dream Act, sponsored by Sen.
After meetings with immigration rights groups this month,
But proponents have to overcome opposition from those who say the measure would grant amnesty to a far larger circle of illegal immigrants than the college students who have become the faces of the movement.
Under the proposed legislation, when the youths become citizens and turn 21, they could sponsor their parents for green cards.
"It would lead to chain migration," said
There are dozens of undocumented students attending
"I grew up thinking I was just like everybody else," said
Lopez is trying to avoid deportation to
Lopez graduated near the top of her high school class in
Lopez, who is studying to become a chemical engineer, is gathering letters of support from her professors, coaches and counselors to present at the next Immigration Court hearing. At the same time, Lopez said, she is praying that the Dream Act passes.
"We are all just crossing our fingers," she said. "It will benefit so many of us. It's not just me."———
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