6.03.2007

Legalize Undocumented College Students: Why Not?

Illegal Students Await Immigration Plan (by Nancy Zuckerman, AP - 6.3.07)

WASHINGTON (AP) - At 23, Mariana should be carefree. She is finishing up her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has been accepted to a master's program at Harvard University's education school.

But life is not so simple for Mariana, who insisted that only her first name be published because she is illegally in the United States and worries she could be deported to Guatemala, where she was born.

"I'm even afraid of eating an apple in the library because I'm afraid of getting caught," she said.

Mariana also worries about how she will pay her tuition and what kind of work she will get after she completes school. "What happens next? Without a work permit, how do you exercise your degree?" she said during a recent interview.

Mariana is among an estimated 50,000 undocumented students in U.S. colleges today. These students would be among the people who would benefit from a part of an immigration bill that the Senate plans to resume work on this week.

Children born in the United States to undocumented parents are granted citizenship automatically. A section of the new legislation deals with illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. They would gain temporary legal status when they graduate from high school as long as they agreed to enroll in college or enlist in the military.

They would be put on a fast, three-year path toward getting their permanent resident status and their green cards. While waiting for that, the students would be eligible for federal student loans and could work legally - options not available to them now.

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