They are the next generation of undocumented immigrants, young people like Jose Espinosa, whose parents moved him to our country when he was just a 9 year old boy.
"I didn't really choose to come to this country," he said.
Now 30, Jose is one of nearly half a million people who have applied to stay in the country under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a version of the so-called "Dream Act." Community activists say 20 thousand of those applications came from the Houston area, though an estimated 64 thousand in our city are eligible.
Cesar Espinosa is the executive director of Fiel, an organization that helps undocumented students apply for the program.
"Just at the University of Houston, there's about 3000 undocumented students," Espinosa . "That's one out of every ten students that's undocumented at UH. At HCC the numbers are even larger. These are people that are living among us. They know the language."
"It's not very common for people to know, but yeah, being undocumented in this country, it could represent difficulty, psychologically," Jose said. "Like in my case, but I overcame all those things and deferred (action program) is just a relief."
The anxiety and depression endured as an adult without proper documentation are a far cry from the laid back, California beach town atmosphere where Jose grew up. As the son of a forklift operator and stay at home mother, Jose loved watching surfers and the NBA. As he aged, everything changed.
"After high school it was difficult not joining classmates who were going to college, and not getting a driver's license," he said.
He now spends his time at the Fiel offices, helping others in his situation find a way to work in the country without fear of deportation. Applying for he deferred action program costs about a thousand dollars. Fiel helps lower income folks get through the process. Deferred action is for a younger generation, so it only makes sense to reach out through the common language of technology, especially as lawmakers try to hammer out a more extensive immigration reform plan.
"We have a huge social media outreach team," Cesar Espinoza. "We have a good network of folks and we're just constantly building upon that."