Like many recent college graduates, Josse Alexandro Garrido, 23, is looking for a job. He earned a psychology degree in December, but he's willing paint buildings, do construction or anything he can find.
Unlike most students who walked the stage at the University of Texas-Pan American, Garrido is an undocumented immigrant. The DREAM Act would have put him on the path to residency, but its defeat in Congress has left his future uncertain.
"Right now I am more or less in a limbo," he said. He asked that the Texas city where he is living not be named.
Garrido's family fled the escalating drug violence in Mexico when he was 13. They feared that his father, a police officer, would be targeted by cartels.
Garrido was a high school senior in Mission, Texas, when he learned of his immigration status. He was in the top 10 percent of his class, and his teachers encouraged him to apply to Ivy League universities. It wasn't until he began filling out applications that he noticed they asked for "something called an S-S-N."
"That's when I realized things were going to be a little different for me," he said.
His father was deported in 2006, and his mother soon returned to Sinaloa, the epicenter of Mexico's drug violence, with Garrido's two younger siblings. Ineligible for federal financial aid, he supported himself through private scholarships and a series of odd jobs - including landscaping and certified hypnotist.
Garrido decided to reveal his status last year when he stepped down from the UTPA student government to become involved in the DREAM Act movement.
"I wanted to show by my example that we are people of value," he said. "I just said, ‘This is enough. A life in fear is not worth living.'"
The DREAM Act's defeat in Congress was announced the morning of Garrido's graduation. He received words of encouragement from UTPA President Robert Nelsen on the bittersweet occasion.
"He told me not to give up," Garrido said. "Those words are embedded in my soul, and that's what I'm trying to do - to be hopeful."
A June U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo established that immigrants like Garrido are not a high priority for deportation, which has given him some reassurance. His goal is to save money for law school with hopes to someday work for the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I just want to make the United States a better place...a more equal place for everyone," he said. "These are college-educated kids. We just need the chance."