Washington (CNN) - An upcoming law school graduate with a 3.8 average, Cesar Vargas wants to serve in the U.S. military.
However, when he graduates, Vargas won't even be able, under the law, to hold a job, much less enlist. Vargas is in the country illegally after being brought to New York as a child from Mexico.
"All I want is the opportunity to serve my country and to give back to the country that has given me so much," Vargas said. "... We're not a problem.
We're the solution."
The House and Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill that would grant citizenship eligibility to thousands of young illegal immigrants like Vargas if they go to college or serve in the military.
The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats will hold a Wednesday news conference to push for passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM.
Championing the bill for the White House is Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-California, are also scheduled to appear.
"I urge the Congress to pass the DREAM Act and set aside old labels," Napolitano said last week. "There are compelling reasons to support it. ... It will strengthen the military and strengthen the economy."
The DREAM Act would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children under the age of 16 and have lived in America for at least five years, obtained a high school or General Education Development diploma and demonstrated "good moral character," according to a White House fact sheet.
Even then, a six-year conditional status will be awarded, and the students will need to meet additional requirements before moving on to the next phase - attend college or serve in the military for at least two years and pass criminal background checks.
Gaby Pacheco was brought to the United States from Ecuador as a child. The honors student said she has lived in America for 18 years, and "I'm an American. The only thing is, I haven't had a path, I haven't had a way to legalize my status."
Under the DREAM Act, the path to citizenship would be long, she said, "but it would give us the opportunity to serve."
Napolitano urged Congress to act "and come together on a bipartisan basis and in the grand tradition of this country." She said the DREAM Act would help people who were "brought here by others ... not of their own volition ... but were brought here by parents or smuggled into the country by human traffickers."
The bill could grant amnesty to more than 2 million illegal immigrants, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said last week.
"Mass amnesty is not the only problem with the DREAM Act," he said. "The bill allows illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at public universities, placing them ahead of U.S. citizens. The bill also is a magnet for fraud."
The White House, however, disputes that the bill will give amnesty, noting that "it requires responsibility and accountability of young people who apply to adjust their status under the DREAM Act, creating a lengthy and rigorous process."
Young people who do not fulfill the act's requirements will lose their legal status and are subject to deportation, according to the fact sheet. DREAM Act applicants are responsible for paying the processing fees associated with their applications, and are subject to "rigorous criminal background checks and reviews."
DREAM Act beneficiaries would not be able to petition for legal status for their family members until after they have satisfied all the requirements.
They would also be subject to waiting periods. "The bottom line is that it would take many years before parents or siblings who previously entered the country illegally could obtain a green card," the White House said.
In addition, DREAM Act beneficiaries would not be eligible for federal grants, such as Pell grants, to attend college. "Undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans which must be paid back, and federal work-study programs where they must work for any benefit they receive," according to the White House.
Vargas and Pacheco said they will continue attempts to speak with congressional leaders and share their stories.
"All I know is that I'll continue to fight for my dream," Vargas said. America, he said, is his home, and he doesn't want medals or awards - "all I want is the opportunity to share in the American dream. In my heart and soul, I am an American."
- CNN's Jim Barnett contributed to this report.