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Thursday, December 3,2009

Young undocumented immigrants face dead end after high school

By Jefferson Dodge

"Monica,” who declines to give her real name, was born in Mexico.

As a child, her family lived in tight quarters at her grandparents’ house in Zacatecas. When her father began to beat her mother, her mother decided to leave, and so she took 12-year-old Monica and her two brothers to the only place she felt safe — to live with her sisters in the United States.

Boulder County, to be specific. Young, undocumented immigrants like Monica can enroll in K–12 schools without consequence, so Monica attended Casey Middle School and Boulder High School. She tried to fit in, acted like a U.S. citizen, and earned a 3.5 GPA.

But she dreaded graduation, because most colleges don’t accept undocumented immigrants, and employers cannot legally hire someone without a Social Security number. “Graduating from high school, I wasn’t excited at all, because I was going to become a criminal,” Monica told Boulder Weekly.

She was about to enter no man’s land, where the society in which she was raised and educated was about to cut off all opportunities because she was born in Mexico.

Monica heard that the Community College of Denver was more flexible than many colleges about admitting undocumented immigrants, and she enrolled there before she graduated from high school, so that she could secure resident tuition before a new law took effect requiring undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition. By starting her college career early, she was “grandfathered” in and can still pay in-state tuition.

She is one of the lucky ones. But like other undocumented immigrants, she can’t qualify for any financial aid, and her family is poor. She started studying early childhood education, but has since given that up, because she can’t legally get hired. “Even if I did get a degree, I wouldn’t be able to use it,” she says.

Monica does have a job, but she declines to say what it is, maybe because, like many others, she is getting paid under the table and doesn’t want to jeopardize that opportunity or her employer. She still has no Social Security number, and, as an undocumented immigrant, she can’t get one. In addition, Monica is unable to get a driver’s license. “We can’t even get a library card,” she says. She gets her boyfriend to check out books for her.

One of her brothers, who is 18, is about to be deported. He was arrested for a crime she doesn’t disclose, and he is being detained in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility.

Her other brother, who is 17, dropped out of high school. “He decided he didn’t want to continue with it because he knew he couldn’t do anything with it any way,” she says.

Monica is part of a growing number of undocumented immigrants who find themselves with nowhere to go.

A sob story, right? Their parents shouldn’t have brought them here in the first place, agreed? They should just go back to Mexico and enter the country legally! The law is the law, after all. Why should American taxpayers bear the financial burden of their illegal presence in the United States?

It is a bit more complicated than that.

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i am in the same position only my story is a little different. i entered the us legally my little sister and i after out parents passed away i didnt know that i was UNDOCUMENTED untill i graduated high school now i am in a big mess cant get a job no I.D no nothing... it want my choice to come here if i had somewhere to return to i would but i cant cause all i know is here my life my childhood everything is here.



Thank you for this in-depth and really insightful article. The situation of undocumented youth is totally unacceptable. How can we reject such passionate and amazing people? People on whom our future depends? We really need to change our immigration system and recognize youth like Maria and Monica, as well as their parents, and give them a way out of the shadows.



I understand the situation.  The problem I have with giving them legal status is that when they achieve that they can sponsor family members to be here legally.  If they could not do this then I would be much more accomadating to their situation.  Until that happens no legalization.