TODAY   |  May 27, 2013

Dream Act only way for undocumented teens to serve

Abigail Nava is a standout cadet leader at Chicago’s Phoenix Military Academy, but as she’s an undocumented student, her dream of attending West Point is just out of reach, for now. NBC’s Miguel Alvear reports.

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>>> would affect children who entered the u.s. before they were 16 years old, some who have always dreamed of serving this country. here's nbc's miguel almaguer.

>> information. let's go.

>> reporter: at chicago 's phoenix military academy , honor, service, commitment are core values of the junior rotc program. abigail is a cadet leader , but her 3.8 gpa isn't the only reason she's a standout in her class.

>> i'm not afraid to say because it's my reality.

>> reporter: born in mexico, abigail grew up in chicago . her dream of attending west point, of serving the country and wearing a u.s. military uniform is out of reach because she's not a citizen. francisco peralta moved from mexico when he was 3. with a 4.7 gpa, he's at the top of his class. but because he, too, is undocumented, francisco can't qualify for the financial aid he needs to attend college.

>> i hope one day i can prove to others that i do deserve to be here. and i do deserve to get an education just like others.

>> reporter: in chicago 's junior rotc programs alone, it's estimated roughly 1,000 students are undocumented. through the dream act , legislation proposed by the president, those students and countless others could earn a pathway to citizenship by attending college.

>> they love this country. they love learning about it. they want to be here.

>> reporter: but critics say the dream act is flawed, allowing children to petition for their parents' citizenship and making too many kids eligible.

>> what would make more sense would be children who came here very young before 7 or 10 years old and have been here ever since.

>> reporter: with immigration reform stalled in washington, the future for so-called dreamers remains unclear. for now they can only wait as congress debates. for "today," miguel almaguer, nbc news, chicago .