WASHINGTON D.C. – For the first time ever Tuesday, a U.S. Senate committee held hearings on the "Dream Act." Helping to make the case for its passage: Arizona State University's valedictorian, who is also undocumented.
That student is Angelica Hernández, who graduated from Carl Hayden High School on Phoenix's west side.
The Dream Act would allow a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children if they are in college or serving in the military
In a packed U.S. Senate hearing room, leading the fight for the Dream Act, Illinois Senator Durbin singled out ASU's valedictorian.
"Angelica Hernández please stand. Brought here from Mexico when she was 9 years old, in high school she served in the Junior ROTC and was president of the National Honors Society. This spring she graduated from Arizona State University as the outstanding senior in the mechanical engineering department. Angelica, thank you."
We asked Angelica what it was like standing up in front of all those people.
"It was very emotional. I was so excited to be recognized by Senator Durbin and other exceptional students."
Backers say it is stories like Angelica's that are the best arguments for the Dream Act.
"The youngsters I see are valedictorians, I know several. The student body presidents, some fighting our wars, some getting masters degrees, PhD's," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
But some senators are strongly opposed.
"This bill sadly does nothing to fix our immigration system. It is a Band-Aid and maybe worse, it will provide an incentive for future illegal immigration," says Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Angelica believes both sides will find common ground.
"What do you think is going to be the fallout of this hearing, what is going to happen do you think?" we asked her.
"From it being the first hearing, it will allow the conversation to get started between Republicans and Democrats," she replied.
Angelica hopes to go to Stanford University where she hopes to continue her research in the field of renewable energy.
For more stories from KSAZ in Arizona go to myfoxphoenix.com