Undocumented student publishes how-to guide for peers on finding jobs after college

A California doctoral student who's an undocumented immigrant has published a free how-to guide on the Internet instructing similar immigrants on finding employment after college and maintaining good health "living in the shadows."

The inspiration for the book came from her family, she said.

"My father has always told me look for solutions instead of the problems," says Iliana Guadalupe Perez, an immigrant since the age of 8 when her parents brought her to the United States from Mexico.

"I always try to find the solution to the problem, if this door closed, what can I do so it opens to me?"

Perez's immigration status has been her biggest problem: she is part of the millions of undocumented students around the country. But she is also a college graduate, and yet her legal status still stands in the way of her job prospects. It's to the point where she wonders if doors won't open, could there be a window?

Perez graduated from the University of Fresno in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in science and mathematics and a minor in economics. Even after she had a diploma in her hand, she heard the whispers that her legal status would still prevent her from pursuing a career.

Questions about why her parents would bring her to an unfamiliar place -- illegally -- stuck with her. Seeing the many opportunities afforded to legal residents, Perez says she knew she couldn't give up on her future.

"I was optimistic," she says, "I knew I could find a job because I have an education and a degree."

That feeling of frustration motivated Perez, now a first-year education doctorate student at Claremont University in Claremont, California, to publish a 73-page guide called "Life After College: A Guide for Undocumented Students."

"This guide is not only for undocumented students but for all students," Perez said. "This guide gives them options and it's not a guide intended to do something illegal in the system.

"Everything in the guide is legal. The options I give exist out there," she said.

The guide focuses on different topics from how to open up your own business legally, pay for postgraduate studies, obtain a job abroad, stay motivated and work in the United States legally as an independent contractor, among other topics. The document offers tips for undocumented students who have faced the same challenges Perez has but who are also living in the shadow of illegal immigration. Perez said she wanted to give students hope and let them know success is achievable.

"The idea of the guide was based on my own personal experiences after graduating from the university and then trying to get into a master's or doctorate program," she says, "it was difficult, so I decided to take an internship to help me."

She interned for the "Educators for Fair Consideration," a non-profit organization that was established in 2006 in San Francisco and focuses on helping low-income, minority youth and undocumented students continue to higher education.

"The mission of our organization is help and support undocumented students," said Jose Arreola, outreach manager for the group. "We offer scholarships, legal services and educational guides because of the lack of information and resources that is not available out there to help these students."

Arreola said Perez's guide is necessary to help undocumented students.

The free, online document is "a guide to give solutions because many of these students were asking us what are we going to do after we graduate? They don't know the many options out there," Arreola said.

Educators for Fair Consideration sponsored Perez's guide and put her in contact with experts, resources and students who are undocumented. "Life After College" contains tips, information and resources to help undocumented students navigate life after graduation.

"Life After College" contains tips, information and resources to help undocumented students navigate life after graduation.

Said Perez: "It may seem undocumented students have limited options upon graduating from college. That's not true. This guide gives students options and hope."

She said the guide can't guarantee a job, but she hopes that it will benefit graduates and expose them to opportunities.

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