People from all over the world come to the United States seeking opportunity and a more secure life for their families. However, if they don't have legal or permanent resident status, the threat of deportation can complicate matters considerably. Many young people in Chicago-area schools would like to take advantage of opportunities to further their education and careers, but not having legal status often prevents this.

A number of Chicago schools have Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, or JROTC, which prepares high school students for military life. This kind of structure allows many teens to find success. However, many of these students find that they're ready to enlist in the military or enroll in college after graduation, but are limited by their immigration status.

One of the proposed features of the immigration bill being debated in Congress is a pathway to legal residency and US citizenship for military enlistees. Under current law, a person without a Social Security number can't join the military, so opening up the law would provide opportunity to young people who are eager to serve the country they consider to be home. Instructors at the JROTC schools in Chicago note how much talent the military is missing out on because of immigration laws.

In addition to those JROTC students who are interested in enlisting, many students have found academic success and would like to go to college. However, undocumented immigrants aren't allowed to apply for federal financial aid, which can put a damper on college ambitions.

Many people enter the country with their family. As children go through the school system, they are being prepared to contribute to their communities, but are often limited if they don't have permanent resident status. Unfortunately, navigating the waters to obtain residency or citizenship is immensely difficult. Talk of reform is encouraging, but some families may not be able to wait until changes are made. This is why it may be helpful to determine what options are available at this time.

Source: NBC News, "Undocumented military cadets molded for success, then cast adrift," Lisa Riordan Seville and Hannah Rappleye, May 27, 2013