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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's the dream of thousands of illegal immigrants to get a college education and stay in America - but the law makes it tough.
The controversial Dream Act would provide a pathway to citizenship and education for immigrants.
Critics say it's just backdoor amnesty for illegals.
On Friday evening, a small group of Charlotte students rallied in front of President Obama's re-election headquarters in Uptown. They want to put pressure on the White House to keep its promise to stop deporting students eligible for higher education under the Dream Act.
Selene Medina calls herself a "dreamer." She came to this country from Mexico when she was 5 1/2. She hopes to attend Chapel Hill in a couple of years and become a lawyer but as an undocumented immigrant those plans could be halted.
"The Dream Act is one solution for people who clearly need it and deserve it the most," Executive Director of the Latin American Coalition Jess George said.
George says the Dream Act affects students who've been in the country for 5 years or more - who came here before the age of 16 - and want to go to college or join the military.
Some 800,000 established undocumented immigrants would be covered under the bill - 51,000 in North Carolina.
"The idea is to offer relief to children who did not choose to come to this country but can show they are excellent students, dedicated to the economic, legal well-being of our community," George said.
On the flip side - groups like Americans for Legal Immigration think the solution lies in better enforcement of existing immigration and border laws not what they're call amnesty.
"It's pretty evil propaganda that says ok we'll give amnesty to these students. It's no fault of their own and then boom, boom, boom 12 plus million illegal immigrants will have amnesty before you know it - voting as a new block, destroying the immune system of this country leaving us defenseless against illegal immigrants," President William Gheen said.
Congress has defeated or thwarted the Dream Act 8 times in the last 10 years.
This week, it made its way through its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.