TODAY | May 27, 2013
>>> 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 .