Back in December, beat reporter Julia Preston lamented the "painful setback " suffered by illegals when the Senate voted to block the Dream Act. Preston followed up Wednesday with "After False Dawn, Anxiety for Students Who Are Illegal Immigrants ."
It was exhilarating for Maricela Aguilar to stand on the steps of the federal courthouse here one day last summer and reveal for the first time in public that she is an illegal immigrant.
"It's all about losing that shame of who you are," Ms. Aguilar, a college student who was born in Mexico but has lived in the United States without legal documents since she was 3 years old, said of her "coming out" at a rally in June.
Those were heady times for thousands of immigrant students who declared their illegal status during a nationwide campaign for a bill in Congress that would have put them on a path to legal residence. In December that bill, known as the Dream Act, passed the House, then failed in the Senate.
President Obama insisted in his State of the Union address and in interviews that he wanted to try again on the bill this year. But with Republicans who vehemently oppose the legislation holding crucial committee positions in the new House, even optimists like Ms. Aguilar believe its chances are poor to none in the next two years.
That leaves students like her who might have benefited from the bill - an estimated 1.2 million nationwide - in a legal twilight.
Preston employed the Times' favorite melodramatic liberal phrase, describing illegals as cowering "in the shadows " (never mind all those photos and public demonstrations of illegal immigrants that make the news pages of the New York Times). She also put an emotional liberal spin on legislation.
Illegal immigrants also face new restrictions many states are imposing on their access to public education, driver's licenses and jobs. And for those like Ms. Aguilar who came out last year to proclaim their illegal status, there is no going back to the shadows.
Hostility toward illegal immigrants has grown in many states. Lawmakers in Georgia and Virginia are considering measures to ban illegal immigrants from all public colleges. Bills to deny state resident tuition rates to illegal immigrants are under consideration here in Wisconsin, as well as in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and Indiana. Only a few states, like Colorado and Maryland, are going the opposite direction, debating measures to allow illegal immigrants to pay the lower in-state tuition rates.
Preston concluded with the sob story of José Varible, a young illegal immigrant from Mexico "with a knack for technology hardware."
Combined with his new exposure as an illegal immigrant, he said, those limitations sometimes sink him into depression. He has even considered moving to Australia.
"You know, the thing is, I just don't feel welcome here," he said. "You cannot live as an undocumented immigrant."