Each year, advocates for undocumented residents in Mississippi lobby for change during Civic Engagement Day in Jackson. Jackie Castro Cooper will be among those in the crowd this year.
Cooper founded the Alliance for the Education of Undocumented Youth, she says fear of being deported pushes students into hiding.
"These kids become ghosts after they graduate high school," Cooper said. "By ghosts, I mean they weren't driving, they weren't working and they weren't going to any of the community colleges here."
Under their parents' status, some young people are here illegally. With no social security card or drivers license, they aren't able to attend community colleges in Mississippi. Castro hopes to change that.
The alliance wants state legislators to allow students to go to school and pay in-state tuition under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Under the act, known as DACA, undocumented youth are given temporary permission to stay in the United States, but it does not make them U.S. citizens.
Castro reached out to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to find out how young immigrants with permission to stay in the country could get an education. The good news is they can attend community college, but at a premium price.
In a statement sent to WLOX News, MGCCC said: "So long as an undocumented student meets admission requirements for a specific community college, the person may attend the institution. However, that student may not be admitted as a Mississippi resident and must pay the out-of-state tuition rate."
She hopes state lawmakers will help undocumented youth have a fair chance at the American dream.
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