Hoping to seize on the momentum, the National Council of La Raza brought a force of supporters to Sacramento to lobby for the California Dream Act, which passed the Assembly days ago. If the Senate agrees, undocumented students whose parents brought them into the Unites States illegally the ability to apply for college financial aid. They already qualify for in-state tuition rates if they went to a California high school for at least three years.
"I want to finish my degree; I want to be able to accomplish my goal, which is become a pediatric surgeon and I can't do it if I don't have help," Cal State Long Beach freshman Mayra Castillo said.
The proposal still divides lawmakers down party lines. Most Republicans believe the Dream Act rewards illegal behavior, other opponents think the feds should act, not the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown says he supports the principle behind the California Dream Act and will closely consider it if it reaches his desk. That suggests he just might sign it.
The California Dream Act, though, may be all supporters get for now.
In Washington DC, Democrats re-introduced the federal Dream Act which gives a path to citizenship to certain undocumented students. President Obama says the U.S. has already invested in their public education and the nation should start benefitting from it.
"We are fighting to unlock that promise, not just for their futures, but for America's future," Obama said. "That's why we're going to get this done."
But the prospect of the Dream Act's passage through a Republican-controlled House is not likely; undocumented students may just have to settle for the California version.
"But it'll only take us so far, it won't give us freedom, so even after we graduate, we still can't work here," undocumented college graduate Maria Luna said.