FRESNO, Calif. (A.P):
Going to college seemed inconceivable when Adriana Sanchez, the 12-year-old daughter of farm workers, was brought from Mexico to Central California and the family overstayed their visas.
Even though Sanchez excelled in high school, she was in the country illegally, lacked a Social Security number and work permit, and didn’t qualify for financial aid. But she volunteered hundreds of hours and paid her way through college and graduate school with a dozen internships.
Now 24, Sanchez graduated last week from California State University, Fresno with a master’s degree in International Relations, a full-time job and no loans to repay. Using a gray area in federal law, she works as an independent contractor.
“For most undocumented students, you have to put yourself out there. You volunteer, you go beyond what regular students do,” Sanchez said. “That’s what connects us to opportunities. Now employers call me.” With thousands of young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children now holding college degrees, Sanchez and others are finding creative ways to get around the legal roadblocks and find a career.
They are getting work experience, opening businesses and seeking professional licenses in their fields. The Associated Press interviewed about two dozen such graduates across the country.
Some, like many legal graduates, are struggling in a grim economy. But others do highly-skilled work, though not always in their professions. Many are “out” about their status despite the risk of deportation; a few asked not to be identified for fear it could cost them their jobs or alert immigration authorities. Follow Gosia Wozniacka on Twitter at (at)GosiaWozniacka