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.
Just another name for back-door amnesty. A Harry Reid payback to the illegals that pulled off the surprise (?) win for ol Harry in November. The man is a truly shameless criminal that won't leave the public scene.
Democrats mischaracterize Republicans in so many areas. We certainly support a person like Cesar Vargas but he is NOT a U.S. citizen and should not simply be "given" citizenship because his family raised him illegally in this country!! And how in the world did he attend public school in the U.S. for so long while not being a U.S. citizen? THESE are the areas that need to be fixed. No child can be enrolled in a public school without showing legal citizenship (or on some type of Visa). THEN there will be a built in system that allows a person attending a school legally to apply for citizenship and granted after the necessary requirements. I liken this to me coming home from vacation and finding someone having lived in my house. I open the front door and there is a person standing in the kitchen in his underwear making a sandwich. I ask him what the heck he is doing in my house!! He tells me not too worry, he did not steal anything, and he cleaned the kitchen so he thinks he should be able to stay. HECK NO YOU CAN"T STAY!! You entered my house ILLEGALLY!! GET OUT!! If you wanted to live in my house you knock on my door and ask if you can stay in my house. If I see that would benefit me and you would be willing to help clean the house and/or clean the kitchen (i.e. I have a job for you) then maybe I let you in. But you just CAN"T break into my house and THEN expect me to say it is alright for you to stay!! GO THROUGH THE PROPER CHANNELS IF YOU WANT TO LIVE IN THE U.S.!!!
Another gasp from the liberal finge....amnesty.
pack him up and ship his illegal ass home, stealing my money, get rid of them and the Democrats
I am for immigration if it is done properly. Done properly means following the established procedure of coming into this country.
He came in illegally and needs to be deported. I would like to know who is paying for Mr. Vargas education? I would imagine a good portion if not all of it is coming from the taxpayer. Is that a bad thing? Well consider, you son, daughter, niece or nephew who is attempting to go to college and get tuition assistance is unable to because of Mr. Vargas. How many others illegal immigrants are in this nation that are being educated by taxpayers or tuition assistance dollars while the citizens who are natuarlized or are here legally cannot get the education they need. Who do we help first? It is an obvious answer we help our own out first. Let Mr. Vargas naturalized country help him.