College Students of Illegal Immigrants Face Arrest, Deportation

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Eric Balderas is no longer facing deportation to Mexico after being detained by immigration authorities at a Texas airport. Credit: Josh Reynolds, AP

Imagine being an honor student looking forward to your first year at Princeton.

Your parents came to America from Mexico when you were a small child, but you are thoroughly Americanized. Your English is flawless. You don't even remember your first few years (or months) in Mexico.

When you applied to Princeton, you found out your parents came to this country without the proper documents. They're illegal immigrants. You never knew about this.

Now, you are being deported to a foreign country you don't even remember.

The Los Angeles Times reports this very real scenario for young people caught in the crossfire of America's war on illegal immigrants.

Harvard University student Eric Balderas was arrested by immigration agents at an airport in San Antonio, Texas, according to the newspaper. His crime? He chose the wrong parents.

They entered the United States illegally with him when he was 4. Now he could be among the record 400,000 "illegals" the Obama administration hopes to get out of the country this year.

Ironically, President Obama supports the Dream Act, a bill before Congress that would give the children of illegal immigrants who attend college in the United States or serve in the military the chance to become citizens.

Still, the Times reports, Obama wants to show his conservative critics he's serious about cracking down on illegal immigration.

His enforcement bureaucracy is pursuing deportation cases against an increasing number of students who would be protected by the Dream Act, the Times reports.

"It highlights the inconsistencies in immigration policies," William Perez, a Claremont Graduate University professor and author of "We Are Americans," a book about undocumented immigrant students, tells the newspaper.

Hardliners on the immigration issue say young people don't deserve special consideration just because they came to America as small children.

Left unchecked, critics say, they could grow to maturity and sponsor their parents for green cards.

"It would lead to chain migration," Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which supports stricter controls on immigration, tells the Times. "And they would create a lot of extra competition for our own students."

But many of them are "our own students," Robert Carroll, a teacher at Palatine High School in surburban Chicago, tells the Times.

He has written letters on behalf of Carlos and Rafael Robles, brothers who were on their way to visit a friend when they were arrested for being illegal immigrants and spent a weekend in jail before friends posted $5,000 bonds for each of them.

Carroll tells the Times he's flabbergasted.

"Gee whiz, these are just two quality kids," he tells the newspaper. "They are everything you would want your kids to be. These kids are going to be leaders in their communities -- taxpayers, not tax recipients."

Immigration authorities rarely deport students -- particularly once their teachers, coaches, friends and elected representatives vouch for them, the Times reports.

They just occasionally arrest them and throw them in jail.

Meanwhile, Obama supports the Dream Act, but is doing little push it, the Times reports. The bill might come up again this year. The last time it came to vote, in 2007, it fell eight votes short.

Jessica Lopez, 19, tells the Times she hopes she doesn't have to return to Mexico.

She was accepted at UC Berkeley, UCLA and Bates College in Maine. She chose Cal Poly Pomona because it was less expensive. As the child of illegal immigrants, she can't get federal aid.

"I grew up thinking I was just like everybody else," she tells the Times. "That is when it hit me, 'I am undocumented.' "

Related: Arizona Lawmaker Wants to Deny Citizenship to Children of Illegal Immigrants

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