It was exhilarating for Maricela Aguilar to stand on the steps of the federal courthouse 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, reports the New York Times. 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…

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staff and wire services reports