LOS ANGELES - As high school seniors graduate and look to the future this month, local students called on Congress Monday to pass the DREAM Act, a federal bill that would increase access to higher education for undocumented immigrant students and give them the opportunity to pursue their goals after high school.

Students, with support from congressional representatives, community organizations and teachers, are seeking federal reform that would help hard-working students who aspire to attend college or join the military to become eligible for permanent residence and in-state tuition rates.

"My parents came to Los Angeles so that my sisters and I could have more opportunities," said Cynthia, a junior at Fairfax High School. "I want to do the right thing and make them proud of their daughters. College is part of that, but my family doesn't have a lot of extra money and right now there is no way for me to become a permanent resident and make sure that I can really make a difference in this country."

Students announced that they will continue to fight for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or the DREAM Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would help young people who were brought to the U.S. more than 5 years ago when they were 15 years old or younger and have kept out of trouble. Under the DREAM Act, students would be able to apply for conditional status, which would authorize up to 6 years of legal residence while attending college or serving in the military. After six years, if students have met all the requirements they would be granted permanent residence.

"The DREAM Act would not only enable myself, but thousands of other students who have grown up in this country and have proven themselves through their hard work in school that they deserve an opportunity to attend college and find a path to legalization," said Byron P. who graduated yesterday from Manual Arts High School.

Both the DREAM Act and the Student Adjustment Act, a similar bill in the House, would expand existing state legislation and will be introduced in July. Both Sens. Feinstein and Boxer have supported the bill in the last Congressional session.

"Currently our immigration law has no mechanism to consider students' special circumstances," said ACLU/SC Executive Director Ramona Ripston. "The DREAM Act would eliminate this flaw. It is un-American to punish students indefinitely who want to go on to higher studies and use those lessons to contribute to our society. We hope Congress recognizes immigrant students potential and enacts the DREAM Act."