Undocumented students and supporters hold vigil at University of Oklahoma

Deisy Escalera, 23, came to the United States illegally from Mexico with her mother when she was six years old. Today, she's one of 25 undocumented students at the University of Oklahoma.
by Silas Allen Modified: November 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012

Deisy Escalera considers Oklahoma her home.

She graduated from high school here, goes to college here and pays taxes here. But in some respects, Escalera isn't American — at least, not on paper.

“I consider myself an American,” she said. “I was not born here, but I consider myself an American.”

Escalera, 23, came to the United States illegally from Mexico with her mother when she was 6 years old. Today, she's one of 25 undocumented students at the University of Oklahoma. Several of those undocumented students and their supporters gathered on OU's South Oval Tuesday evening to discuss the issues they face.

The vigil was organized by the Norman chapter of DREAM Act Oklahoma, an organization that seeks to put faces on the issue of illegal immigration. The group takes its name from a piece of proposed legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Although the DREAM Act hasn't been enacted, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a policy earlier this year that allows certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as young children to stay in the country temporarily. The policy, known as Deferred Action, allows those immigrants to apply for two-year work permits that would let them stay in the country.

In Oklahoma, undocumented students may be offered in-state tuition if they graduated from high school in the state and lived here with a parent or legal guardian for at least two years before graduation. Undocumented students must file an affidavit with the college or university saying they plan to apply for legal status as soon as they're eligible to do so.

Although they may be granted in-state tuition, undocumented students aren't eligible for federal financial aid programs like Pell Grants, Federal Work Study or federal student loans.

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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People think it's over. The fight has just begun.”

Eleazar Velazquez,
Undocumented OU student and co-founder of the Norman chapter of DREAM Act Oklahoma

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