Arizona State University Valedictorian is an Undocumented Immigrant

On this Arizona State University graduation day, Angelica Hernández should be reflecting on her accomplishments and her future career prospects. Instead, she worries about being deported and not being able to get a job.

Angelica Hernández came to Arizona from Mexico in the late 1990s. She excelled in her studies -- graduating high school with a 4.5 GPA.

During the graduation ceremony, Hernández gets to sit on stage because she is a distinguished graduate. She's the 'outstanding distinguished senior' in mechanical engineering at ASU -- which is what a valedictorian is to other universities.

"To be able to receive that award and knowing the people that I was competing with, it just makes me so excited and so overwhelmed," she told us.

Most distinguished graduates like Hernández have jobs and internships lined up by now, but not Hernández. She's undocumented.

"There's my degree but I can't use it as much as I want to get a job, as much as I want to help somewhere or do research, I can't. Its just very unfortunate."

Hernández' mom moved her and her sister to Arizona when Hernández was 9 years old, to be with their dad.

"She knew that just having my dad there while growing up was worth the risk of crossing," recalls Hernández.

Hernández later earned a 4.5 GPA at Carl Hayden High School and was in the ROTC. Now, she wears a "Dream Act" button proudly.

The legislation reintroduced Wednesday by Senate Democrats would provide children who were brought to the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship if they pursue a college education or military service.

"I'm just kind of hoping for the Dream Act to pass and to have those kinds of opportunities," she says. "There is really no place for me to go. They say go back home you don't belong here, but I do belong here, this is home for me."

She hopes to pursue a career in the U.S. in sustainable energy. Meanwhile, Hernández lives her life in fear of being deported.

It's a hot issue. Some sympathize with Angelica, while others think the concept is unfair. We showed her story to two people -- the head of the state board of education, and a legal immigrant and recent college grad.

Samantha Kozuch is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona. She and her family immigrated from Australia 10 years ago, and she is now a U.S. citizen.

She thinks people shouldn't come into the country illegally, but after watching Angelica's story, Kozuch has sympathy for these dreamers.

"I was young. I had no idea of any legal processes. They did it the right way, moved here, lived here for a couple years with a green card, went through the legalization process. Her parents could have gone about it the right way, and maybe wouldn't be in situation today, and tears at graduation," says Kozuch.

We showed the same interview to Jaime Molera, president of the Arizona School Board and former state superintendent. He's Republican, but on this issue he breaks with some of his colleagues.

"I think its a no brainer. She's an American citizen. She came here not of her own volition, but she was raised through our system, she did what she needed to do, she's been a good citizen, she's been a good student," says Molera.

"These are kids that are going to end up at Intel or Microsoft, they're going to end up doing great things, they're going to be great contributors to our tax base... they'll be great assets to any community they live in. Their only crime is their parents came here illegally and they were babies."
Molera says there are a number of Republicans in Congress who support the Dream Act and he's optimistic it can pass.

Just Wednesday Democrats in Washington re-introduced the Dream Act, and said they are open to having the bill paired with other immigration enforcement measures.

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