After undocumented immigrants complete college, leaving school often means facing a long line of closed doors. Despite having a university degree, the lack of legal status blocks many job possibilities.
Iliana Guadalupe Perez, an undocumented immigrant and California Ph.D candidate, provides an option to address this. Perez is the author of "Life After College: A Guide For Undocumented Students," a free online guide to finding employment after college for undocumented immigrants.
"It may seem undocumented students have limited options upon graduating from college. That's not true. This guide gives students options and hope," said Perez according to CNN.
This 73-page guide contains bits of information, tips, and resources to help undocumented students after graduation. The guide has been written to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible by including personal narratives, student testimonials and advice from experts.
The document was published by Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC), a non-profit organization established in 2006 in San Francisco whose mission is to help undocumented students achieve their academic and career goals and actively contribute to society. Iliana Perez interned for the non-profit in 2006.
E4FC has published in the past other guides for undocumented students, with topics including college and financial aid, college admissions instructions and on living as an undocumented immigrant youth.
"This guide is not only for undocumented students but for all students," Perez said to CNN . "It gives them options. It's not intended to do something illegal in the system. Everything in the guide is legal. The options I give exist out there."
Perez, who was born in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was eight years old, graduated in 2009 with honors from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics and a minor in economics. She went on to pursue a Master’s degree in global political economy and finance, at the New School for Social Research in New York. She is currently a first-year Ph.D student at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.
Perez has been an active member of the undocumented immigrant community.
"In any conversation regarding education for Hispanic students you can't talk without including the story of undocumented students," said Perez in an interview in Spanish with RENACER, a non-profit organization that aims to develop managerial, technical and strategic capabilities of Hispanic owners and managers of small business in the U.S.
"We are thousands [of undocumented students] who are here in the country," she continued. "It's been already 25, 26 years that the immigration reform is coming and in all those years nothing has happened. We are all wrapped up in this political issue where there's no solution, where our hands our tied. We can't continue with our education because we have no money, we can't work, we can't do anything."
But Perez didn't succumb to her limited situation.
"Last year, since I was unable to work and I didn't want to work illegally--although there's also no problem with that, because as undocumented people we pay taxes-- it was necessary for me to start my own business," said Perez in her RENACER interview. "So right now I am working as an independent contractor, which is completely legal. You use the form w-9, instead of the I-9, and I can use my tax pin instead of a social security number."
Perez currently works with social media consulting, marketing, promotions and as an event coordinator.
But furthermore, her how-to guide may provide a deeper impact than just in relation to education.
"In a different dimension, it has the power to further advance the need for immigration reform as it provides a very compelling argument," said Associate Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University William Perez (no relation to Iliana Perez), to The Huffington Post. "Despite the frustration of not being able to pass the DREAM Act, and the passing of immigration the Arizona and Alabama immigration laws, despite these setbacks, we can celebrate the states that have been able to provide tuition support and laws that are supporting education for undocumented students."
He continued, "of course, an outcome of that success is that now we have a higher number of college graduates."
These undocumented college graduates work through their college years, but once they graduate are faced with a system that has few opportunities.
"The guide provides hope to college students, those who have graduated and those who are on the verge of graduation," said Professor Perez. "Such a talented pool of individuals shouldn't be limited to a few job options."
Fermin Vasquez serves as the statewide Communications Coordinator for Californians for Justice. One of Los Angeles' youngest emerging Latino leaders, Fermin was a Front Line Leaders Academy Fellow with the People for the American Way Foundation, based in Washington D.C. In 2010, Fermin became the first one in his family to graduate from college, and received his degree in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles. He was also a founding member and President of Students United to Reach Goals in Education (S.U.R.G.E.), a support and advocacy organization for those that may not have come here with the right papers, but have been raised with the right values. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fermin-vasquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Laura E. Enriquez
Laura E. Enriquez is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles where she does research on the experiences of undocumented young adults. She is a dedicated scholar-activist and specializes in immigration, race/ethnicity, and gender. She has been mentoring, teaching, and organizing with undocumented young adults for the past five years. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-e-enriquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Fernando Romero is the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California; he is also a co-founding member of <a href="http://dreamersadrift.com/" target="_hplink">Dreamers Adrift</a>, a new media project for undocumented students, by undocumented students. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-romero" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Alma Castrejon was born in Mexico City and came to the United States at the age of seven. In 2008, she graduated from UC Riverside with B.A. degrees in Political Science - International Relations and Chicano Studies. While at UCR she founded Providing Opportunities, Dreams and Education in Riverside (PODER), a support group for undocumented students on campus. In 2011, Alma received her Master of Arts degree in Education at CSU Long Beach. She has been a member of Dream Team Los Angeles (DTLA), a community and student group that advocates for undocumented student rights and immigrant rights, since 2009; she is also an active member of Graduates Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD), a group of undocumented graduate students that addresses the needs of immigrant students interested in pursuing graduate education. Alma will be applying to law school in the fall of 2012. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alma-castrejon" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Juan Escalante is an undocumented student and recent graduate from Florida State University. He is a core-member of <a href="http://www.dreamactivist.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivist.org</a> and the founder of <a href="http://dreamactivistfl.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivistFL.org</a>; both are online organizations that provide resources for undocumented students across the country. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juan-escalante" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Nancy Meza is a human being from Jalisco, Mexico. She was brought to the U.S. by her responsible and courageous mother at the age of two and proudly grew up in East Los Angeles California. She is a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. After High School she attended East Los Angeles Community College and transferred to UCLA where she became actively involved in organizing around undocumented and immigrant rights issues with IDEAS at UCLA and Dream Team Los Angeles. She graduated with a degree in Chicana/o Studies and a Labor and Work Place Studies minor in 2010. She is currently an intern at the Dream Resource Center; a project out of the UCLA Labor Center and continues to organize with Dream Team Los Angeles where she is a member of the media and communications team. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-meza" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Erick Huerta is majoring in journalism at East Los Angeles College. As a member of Dream Team Los Angeles, he is one of the coordinators handling the group's communications and social media endeavors. He has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years and has been chronicling his personal experiences as an undocumented resident for the last eight years on his personal <a href="www.justarandomhero.blogspot.com" target="_hplink">blog</a>. He's also a community reporter for the community of Boyle Heights and an avid cyclist. He can be recognized by his trademark bigotes. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erick-huerta" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Jonathan Perez is a queer undocumented political exile from Colombia, and a Co-Founder of the Immigrant Youth Coalition in Southern California. On why he contributes to the series, he writes, "It is shocking to most, but I don't actually advocate for the DREAM Act. I organize for the rights of undocumented immigrants. I believe that in order to have meaningful changes we must first address the root causes. In order to change our realities we have to build a global movement and a global revolution. I write for the Huffington Post <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em> because it gives me the opportunity to give a different perspective to what the issues of undocumented people are." You can read his posts <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-perez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Mayra Hidalgo Salazar
Originally from Naranjo, Alajuela, Costa Rica, Mayra immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 6-months-old. She is undocumented and has dedicated her life to the immigrant movement in Florida. She lives in Lakeland, Florida where she is an organizer for Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), a grassroots organization founded by undocumented immigrant youth in Florida. She also serves on the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and United We DREAM (UWD) Board of Directors. She helped start an immigration legal clinic that offers free legal immigration consultation to low-income immigrants in her community and serves as the Clinic Coordinator. She also serves as the Migrant Scholar Advocate for Scaffold the Scholar, a professional development initiative for former farm-worker women working in early childhood education and is a member of the Polk County School Board Diversity Council. She was a project manager for the Trail of Dreams campaign in 2010, a 1,500 walk from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C., demanding that President Obama stop the deportation of undocumented students. Currently a undergraduate college student, she aspires to eventually earn a law degree specializing in immigration law so she can continue to serve the community that taught her to persevere against all odds.
Jesus Cortez is an undocumented graduate student at the California State University, Long Beach College of Education. He grew up in Anaheim, California and is a member of the Orange County Dream Team. He is a contributor to the <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesus-cortez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Angy Rivera is a Colombian-born, New York-raised undocumented immigrant who started the first undocumented youth advice column, Ask Angy, while a core member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council. She also blogs for DreamActivist.org.