It is likely undocumented immigrant students were among the young, fresh-faced graduates walking across the stages at their Ohio high schools the past few weeks.
But often, their peers don't know their status, and what's next for them isn't as flush with opportunity as their friends who were born or have legal immigration status in the United States.
"Legally, they're in a holding pattern," said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University in southwestern Ohio. "Until something gets resolved legislatively, there's not really options for them."
A recent study by the Migration Policy Institute shows that almost 100,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from U.S. high schools annually for the next several years, but no one knows what comes next for them.
Some find opportunity and funding to attend colleges. Others may work jobs under the table for cash, Smith said. And still others may have better luck seeking options in other states, such as border states or those with high numbers of immigrant residents.
For almost 20 years, Congress members and presidents have been trying to find a solution to the lack of opportunity for these students who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children, largely to no avail.
This year's graduates are the second class without the protections of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that former President Barack Obama put in place by executive order in 2012, said Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a bipartisan, nonprofit group that released the report in April.
After President Donald Trump took office, he tussled with the courts over DACA and in September 2017 ended the program that allowed almost 700,000 young people in the country illegally to work and go to school for a period of two years, without fear of deportation. Lower courts have since blocked that effort. The administration's appeals of those rulings have been pending since last November, but the Supreme Court has so far taken no action on them.
The Migration Policy Institute decided to study the issue because there weren't recent estimates on the number of undocumented students graduating U.S. high schools each year, Batalova said.
The last estimate was based on data from the early 2000s, she said, and stated that about 65,000 undocumented students graduated annually.
"We know a lot has changed with the flow of immigration," Batalova said. "From a demographic point there were multiple reasons to update … There were also policy imperatives."
Last week, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019. Even it would pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which is unlikely, Smith said, it would still need to be signed by Trump, who's sought to end these programs.
If approved, the bill would protect undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, often called "Dreamers," from deportation and allow them to have permanent residency for 10 years, with certain conditions.
About 20 states have passed in-state tuition laws for unauthorized graduates, according to the report.
Ohio is not among those states, though it does have a lower population of undocumented students than many other states, the report said. California, Texas, Florida and New York have the highest numbers of students, and Ohio has less than 1,000, Batalova said. In California, there are an estimated 27,000 graduating undocumented immigrants; Texas has about 17,000 and it drops to 5,000 in Florida, according to the study.
To get in-state tuition in Ohio, non-U.S. citizens must have been granted permanent or temporary residence by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Kevin Holtsberry, spokesman with the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Depending on the school, students may be charged out-of-state tuition or international student rates, said Lilleana Cavanaugh, executive director of the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission.
Batalova said the debate over the future of Dreamers has become more interesting since Trump rolled out a "merit-based" immigration proposal last month.
Under his plan, the younger and more educated a person is, the more likely they are to have their applications for entry into the country approved. Points would also be added for having a "valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education or a plan to create jobs."
"As education becomes more important for the economic and social success of American workers, I think that rose as important criteria and important incentive to keep students without legal status in schools," Batalova said.