College valedictorians tend to have job offers and paid internships lined up long before graduation.
But not Angelica Hernandez, the Distinguished Graduating Senior in Mechanical Engineering at Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Hernandez graduates from ASU today with much hope and little opportunity.
She is undocumented.
The proud soon-to-be college graduate has been here since the day she turned 9 years old in summer 1998, when her mother brought her across the border to reunite with her father, who had been working in America. They arrived in the United States to discover he had been having an affair, causing Hernandez' parents to separate.
Despite the heartbreak, Hernandez's mother decided the family would stay and build a better life than they had in Zacatecas.
Thirteen years later, Angelica is a valedictorian looking for a volunteer internship to gain real-world engineering experience while she applies to graduate schools.
Hernandez excelled throughout high school, earning a 4.5 GPA at Carl Hayden as she made a name for herself in the school's famous robotics program. She chose to study mechanical engineering in college because it's a broad major that allows her to be a "jack of all trades" in engineering.
She is interested in pursuing a graduate education in solar energy.
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Hernandez is precisely the type of student the DREAM Act, reintroduced by United States Senator Richard Durbin yesterday, is supposed to benefit: smart, talented, and likely to contribute much more to American society than she has received -- if the government would only let her. Instead, politicians continue to play games with immigrants' lives, including Democrats who kabuki dance around the legislation.
Hernandez realizes she's been fortunate, and loves the United States for all of the opportunities it has given her.
"This country has given me so much," Hernandez tells New Times on the eve of her graduation.
Too bad the government's broken immigration laws forbid her from giving back.