Young-adult immigrants face education challenges

INDIANAPOLIS - Thousands of young adults brought into the U.S. illegally as children are in limbo. In 2012, the federal government allowed some to stay in the country, but those graduating from high school found the door was closed to any college aid assistance.

Kevin Rodriguez delivered a speech at his high school graduation. He said he shared the honor with his parents.

"It is an honor to be a salutatorian of the John Marshall Community High School," Rodriguez said. "Thank you for bringing me to this country to have a better life and better education. Your love and support is more than you can ever know."

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Despite graduating with honors, his immigration status makes him ineligible for federal financial aid. Any dreams of attending Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Indiana State University or Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis were put on hold.

"I want to be someone in life. I want to have a career in computer science," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez's parents brought him and his brothers from Honduras nearly a decade ago. He said he was given six months to stay in the country but he never left.

In June 2012, he received a break from the federal government's Deferred Action program. It gave about half a million young adults with no criminal record the chance to live in the country without the fear of imminent deportation.

Among the 50 states and territories, Indiana ranks 16th for the number of people on Deferred Action.

"I feel more American," Rodriguez said. "I fit perfect to the tradition here, the culture. Sometimes my parents ask ‘Do you want to go back to Honduras?’ I'll go visit, but not stay."

Rodriguez can work legally in the country under Deferred Action and every penny he makes goes toward paying for college.

Rodriguez’s brother was valedictorian of his class last year and has also put college on hold because of his immigration status.

Another student who graduated from a west-side Indianapolis high school at the top of her class declined to be interviewed after her family received threats.

Community groups are looking for ways to raise private funds for kids who are in the U.S. and want to be productive and pursue their education.

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