Francisco Rojas is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
But he can't enlist in the military because he is undocumented.
The 20-year-old student came to the United States from Mexico when he was just 8 years old and he could seek legal status by serving two years in the military or completing two years of college if the U.S. Congress passes the DREAM Act.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a defense bill Tuesday that includes an amendment with the DREAM Act. To qualify, youth must have come to the United States before the age of 16 and have lived here five years.
Rojas has tried three times before to enlist in the military. He would like to enlist in the Marines, and his dream is to become a pilot.
"I'm willing to give 110 percent," he told me explaining that he would be willing to give his life for the United States. "That's a risk I'm willing to take for my country."
Rojas and another undocumented youth, Ernesto Alvarez, 21, tried to enter the federal building Monday afternoon to go to a military recruiting office. But Homeland Security guards would not let them past the security checkpoint. A few minutes later, they were told that the recruiting office was closed.
"Offices like those will be always closed for us. We won't stop trying until they pass the DREAM Act," Alvarez said at a rally outside the federal building.
Alvarez told me he would like to enlist in the Navy.
"This country is as much mine as any other citizen," said Alvarez who was brought here by his parents when he was 10 years old. Check out a video I made at the rally.
"They're here to give back to this community, to this country in a way that many Americans won't do, in a way many Americans are afraid to do," said Cardenas, who has served in the Navy. "So these young men are willing to sacrifice their lives and their limbs for an opportunity."
Ochoa was in the U.S. Marine Corps and he served in the first Gulf War. When he came to the United States as an 8-year-old child, he also was undocumented.
Ochoa said these youth want "to serve our country, to show their patriotism, to go to college and fulfill their dreams. This can unquestionably only strengthen America." Ochoa became a permanent resident as a teenager after his mother married a U.S. citizen.
But the 65,000 undocumented youth who graduate from high school each year do not have a relative who is eligible to help them become legal permanent residents. They could contribute to the economy or the military. If the DREAM Act does not pass, they could be resigned to living in limbo or risk deportation back to countries they do not know.
One of those who has been waiting is Tania Unzueta, 26, a leader with the Immigrant Youth Justice League and champion of the DREAM Act. I first interviewed her in 2001 when she was a high school student.
Unzueta spoke outside Chicago Republican headquarters as supporters prepared for an overnight vigil there.
Congress first considered DREAM Act legislation in 2001 and in nine years they have not been able to do what is right for undocumented youth. Among the biggest wafflers is Arizona Sen. John McCain who was was a sponsor of the DREAM Act and now has turned his back on helping immigrant youth. He has said he will vote against the DREAM Act Tuesday.
Unzueta said that on Thursday and Friday more than 25,000 people called Congress to support the DREAM Act.
"We believe that undocumented students have a right to contribute to the United States whether it be the Army in college or in their communities. We are here because we don't want the Republicans or the Democrats to hold our dreams hostage," Unzueta said.
It's going to be a very close vote expected early Tuesday afternoon. Our country shouldn't punish undocumented children who were brought here by their parents. Many of them have become their class valedictorians, community leaders and some like Rojas and Alvarez want to join the military.
We shouldn't resign them to second-class status when they can contribute to our society.
Rojas said that no matter the outcome he is optimistic. "If it doesn't pass tomorrow," he said, "I'm going to keep fighting."