by: John Rodriguez
For many young adults within the United States graduating from High School is just one stepping stone towards starting their lives, and once that stone is completed they move onto the next which is obtaining a College education that will hopefully enrich their lives. However, most students who have completed High School were face with an uncertain future. There was an uncertain future that awaited students who are living as illegal immigrants in the U.S, but last Friday things changed for these undocumented High School graduates.
Last Friday, the Obama Administration announced a new set of immigration rules that would benefit young immigrants who have been living in the country since they were children. Illegal immigrants under the age of 30 and who came to the United States before the age of 16 will be able to apply for work permits that would allow them to stay in the country and continue their education. Along with the age limit, having no criminal record, or posing as a security threat young illegal citizens must prove they have been living in the country for at least 5 years.
There are an estimated 1.4 million children and young adults living in the United States and at Garcia High School in Chicago this year 20% of the graduating class are illegal immigrants who can now continue their education goals without worrying whether or not they could be able to. “What the President did this week was an amazing gift to me and other students who are undocumented,” said Andrea Labra, age 18 and just one of the graduating students of the 2012 Class.
Labra was born in Mexico but came to the United States when she was 5 years old with her family, “It’s just an emotional thing to have the same opportunities that other students have and that we didn’t have just because we didn’t have papers.”
Sharing in the celebration with Labra fellow classmate Rodrigo Espinoza, 18, who came to the United States with his family when he was only 3 months old said the announcement was “so unexpected…this is going to change my life. It was a life-changing experience for all of us and for my family,” and that the moment is “like a dream. I can finally do something with my life now.” Espinoza is going to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago on a scholarship where he plans on studying bio-engineering and hopes to find a cure for cancer.”
The new immigration rules put into place will also benefit future students who also have illegal citizenship status. Across the nation, students who are illegal find obtaining a High School pointless since they cannot obtain a college degree or a good-enough paying job with a High School Diploma. “It’s a timely announcement,” said Juan Rangel, leader of Chicago’s Largest Hispanic advocacy organization that runs Hector P. Garcia High and 10 other schools, “At some points these kids ask themselves the question (what’s the point?): they work hard, they get the good grades, but what’s the point of going to a university if they can’t work?”
And their hard-work is now going to be rewarded. “The emotions that go through me to think that one day when I graduate from college that I might become a doctor or teacher and that I’ll be able to do it without having to go anywhere else—I thought I would have to go back where I came from,” Labra said describing how her fear regarding her future was quelled after the announcement was made. Now that she is a High School graduate, Labra is planning on going to college but first will attend Harold Washington College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago’s two-year schools, while saving up money to attend a four year college. Labra plans on majoring in Biology so that she can one day become a science of biology teacher.
The executive order made by the Obama Administration closely models after a Democratic proposal called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors—or DREAM—Act which would have enabled illegal immigrant children to receive citizenship if they demonstrated “good moral character” and have not committed crimes that would “make them inadmissible to the country” according to a White House information regarding the sheet. While the DREAM Act itself hasn’t been passed, the new immigration rules set by the Obama Administration now enables some hard-working students strive for the American dream.