America's Undocumented Brain Drain

She just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from ASU and was one of the top students in her class -- but Angelica Hernández has another big struggle ahead.

Her new struggle is getting the DREAM Act passed, so she can get an engineering job in the United States.The DREAM Act would allow young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, if they, like Angelica, were brought here when they were little and wanted to attend college or enlist in the military.

We visited the high school that nurtured Angelica's talent.

Students on the robotics team at Carl Hayden High School on Phoenix's west side have won national titles.

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Angelica Hernández went from the robotics team to the top of her class at ASU. Her mom brought her to Arizona from Mexico when she was nine.

Angelica is undocumented so she cannot work.

At Carl Hayden High School, everybody on the robotics team is thinking about Angelica.

"It is a very tough situation I mean having such a bright young mind and not being able to use it for the benefit of the country is a shame," says Eduardo Fernández.

Fredi Lavjardi started the robotics program at Carl Hayden.

"I tell her not to be too upset, her degree is good, no one can tell her to take that away, she can work in any country on the planet except the United States," he says. "The best student at ASU will have to go work for another country."

Lavjardi says there are lots of Angelicas out there -- super-talented, highly educated, and undocumented.

The question is: what is the United States going to do about them? There's a lot of controversy.

One option is pass the DREAM Act and allow mechanical engineers like Angelica to work in the U.S. The other option is not to pass the DREAM Act and force people like Angelica, with their first-rate American training, to head to Canada, Europe, or Mexico.

That's called reverse brain drain -- where highly educated graduates migrate to work abroad -- instead of using their skills to make advancements for the U.S. government or U.S. businesses.

Angelica told us she was not asked or required to prove her citizenship status during her primary and second public schooling. In the public schools, all children are given an education regardless -- it is illegal to discriminate based on status.

As for her college education, Angelica paid out of state tuition that was funded by private donors. She did not take any federal grant money.

For more stories from KSAZ in Phoenix, Arizona go to

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