Students who are here illegally cannot get federal student loans and are not eligible to work in the U.S. once they finish school.
Mary, a 21-year-old from the Philippines, asked that we not use her last name because of her undocumented immigration status. She has been paying out of pocket at Miramar College for two years. She says the DREAM Act would drastically improve her prospects.
"I would be more flexible in doing certain things, for instance: helping out, reaching out to the community, reaching my dreams, possibly having my own little organization, too," said Mary. "I am very for education, because it's something valuable that no one can take away from you."
Mary believes she can help to motivate students to continue their own educations.
"You never lose hope because you always have that desire to finish something that you know for a fact will get you somewhere, someplace, anywhere else…" she said. "You know, as for me, as an undocumented student, I try to look beyond what I can possibly do - being in this organization, speaking up, educating others, telling them 'value your education because it's very important,' you know?"
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001, would grant citizenship and access to student loans to young illegal immigrants who have no criminal records, and who have at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces. It will be up for a vote starting next week as an amendment to a defense bill, with both Democrats and Republicans behind it.