Undocumented youth: dreaming, waiting…

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In the last couple years we’ve heard about “Dream students” – college students who’ve “come out” as undocumented and protested to press Congress on the DREAM Act, which would offer a path to citizenship.

With vivid profiles of five young Back of the Yards residents, a new report  in the Gate gives us a view of the many kinds of challenges these young people confront – as well as the impact on many who don’t make it.

For kids who’ve grown up fully integrated into local school and culture, realizing the implications for their lives of being undocumented can be a profound shock.

“You feel lost,” says Quintiliano Rios, 21.  “You feel like all doors are closing on you.”

As a teenager, Aurora Vizcarra, 20, became convinced that school was pointless for her.  Today she works in a factory and a restaurant, while raising her two-year-old daughter.

University of Chicago professor Roberto Gonzalez explains that the students who end up succeeding  are those who gain support from teachers and counselors – and are able to talk about their immigration status with them.  In many Chicago schools, large class sizes make it difficult to establish those kinds of relationships, he has found.

At Holy Cross Church, immigration committee chair Jose Alonso works to motivate young people to prepare for college.  Those who succeed become expert fundraisers, he said.

Unfortunately, their future depends not just on their own talent and hard work but on the vagaries of national politics.

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