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The Armed Forces and DACA

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Among the most prestigious centers of higher education in the U.S. are the military academies: West Point, The U.S. Naval Academy, The Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. All of them offer scholarships to their students.

Admission to these academies is not easy, but not impossible. Out of 1,000 students who graduated from West Point in 2013, 95 are Hispanics. Out of 1,047 from the Naval Academy, 138 are Hispanics and out of 1,049 from the Air Force Academy, 98 are Hispanics.

The Army offers the Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) which also offers two, three and four year scholarships to students who combine their university education with military training.

THE ARMED FORCES offers a good way to obtain a university degree. Besides the elite academies, many universities offer programs sponsored by the ROTC.

ROTC programs ceased at the most selective universities (particularly in the northeast), but students in the program do have access to excellent universities (See the College Toolkit section).

In the last five years the ROTC has provided scholarships to 16,264 students, 2,411 of which are Hispanic students. Out of these, 418 have attended four-year universities.

The ROTC is trying to increase diversity among its students. Lieutenant Colonel Lorenzo Rios, program director for the University of California in Fresno, sees diversification as a major goal.

Colonel Rios readily admits that he is an example of that. He came to the U.S. as a “wetback,” he says, and benefited from the opportunities that the Armed Forces offer to students willing to combine their studies with military training.

But the ROTC, like all the other programs previously described, requires prospective scholarship holders to be U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents. Currently there are 1.5 million youngsters in the U.S. with the potential to attend universities but lack proper documentation.

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Although there are no federal restrictions in attending higher education institutions, undocumented students are not eligible to receive government assistance.

But this is not the end of the road. States like California and Texas do offer them financial assistance. The University of California in Berkeley, for example, has an center for undocumented students and even a counselor to help with legal affairs.

Also, since many undocumented students come from low-income families, some universities offer to those who qualify, without legal limitations, generous aid, making it possible for undocumented students to attend universities like Harvard.

With the Deferred Action Program, the Obama Administration opened many doors and undocumented students could seek financial aid without fear.

The situation is far from ideal. There is still a lot of discrimination as will be shown in an Univision documentary that is airing soon. There is still a long road ahead.

But the U.S. is still the land of opportunities, and for those willing to work hard, like Lucerito Ortiz and thousands of Hispanics and their families in the past few years, the old saying applies: the sky is the limit.

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THE PARENTS, even those who never attended college, are critical to help the students make their way towards attending college. Here is Lucerito Ortiz' testimony.

Text: José Fernando López. Reporting: Helga Salinas, Laura Prieto, Camilo Vargas. Design: ARK INK. Videos: Laura Prieto. Infographic: Helga Salinas. Programming: Edmundo Hidalgo, Omar Ramírez. Project Managers: José Fernando López, Carolina Servigna, Junelly Rojas. Product Manager: Alex Behrmann. Academic Advisor: Fernando Reimers, Harvard University.

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