Central American economies are getting a boost as an increasing number of poor Central Americans, many of them like Juan Pablo Baca, a recent arrival, come to the U.S. and take college-level courses. (Jose Luis Gonzalez)
Undocumented Central Americans in the U.S. can be expected to play a role in presidential elections on Nov. 6.
There is a rise in the number of Central Americans in the U.S. who have a college degree and plan to return home.
California, where 8,699 undocumented immigrants with a degree left the state between 2009 and 2013, is one of a handful of states where such applicants are more likely to participate in the 2016 presidential election.
With a higher education presence is the highest concentration of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
"Study abroad programs in California have been very successful in the college campuses where they are successful," said John Lloyd Wright, the founder of Maymont International. "Schools have recognized the potential that there may be students, particularly those from an undocumented background, that do not have access to academic opportunities in their home countries."
Wright became so impressed with the increase in the number of international students enrolling in California's public colleges and universities and in exchange providing them with state funding he started the Maymont International Foundation, which supports campus research.
Maymont students might be an undiscovered and underrepresented demographic that will have an impact on the upcoming presidential elections, Wright said.
"Students who get their degrees and those that go on to go into fields in which they can improve our country," he said.
However, Baca said while he learned more about his culture and provided a valuable service to his employer, including being a pillar of his housing complex in Bakersfield, California, he regrets that he did not stay at Maymont more than three years.
"I came here with a lot of hope and it was a community of foreigners that made things happen for me. But unfortunately, the rents were very expensive here. When I started paying for the fees here, that left me with very little to live on. I spent most of my salary paying back the fees here," Baca said.
"I feel that maybe it was too much. But I have no regrets about coming here and going to school here and finding a future here. The contributions that they gave me while I was here, it's well worth it."
He plans to return to his home country soon.
Cecilia Rios Leal, 19, said she believes that she will have an impact on the upcoming presidential elections. (Jose Luis Gonzalez)
After spending three years at the Pitzer College Institute of San Diego, Bolivia-born Celina Martinez said she was an advocate for her local San Diego Mayor Lorie Zapf to defend the Dream Act, a bill that allows some undocumented students to work legally in the U.S.
"She supported our being able to get a job in San Diego and to pay taxes," Martinez said. "I would like the dream act to go through and for the government to stop trying to find a way to hide our documents so our students can live a normal life," she said.
Martinez recently completed a psychology and sociology degree and was awarded the Minerva Impact award, which will help her to pay back the tuition she has paid for her education and to go back to Bolivia.
Cecilia Rios Leal, 19, has been at the Pitzer College Institute of San Diego since August. She dreams of one day becoming a social worker in Bolivia. She believes that she will have an impact on the upcoming presidential elections.
"When the people from California, which represents Latinos, are participating in elections, they will shape the future policies," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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