Five years ago, Manuel Bartsch was given a special circumstances full tuition scholarship to Heidelberg University. On Sunday, he received his diploma after earning a degree in political science. Like many other recent college graduates, the 24 year old has big dreams for his future.
"Ultimately, I'd like to end up in Washington D.C. either working for a senator or a congressman or maybe for an NGO advocating for immigration reform and the DREAM Act," said Bartsch.
However, Bartsch cannot fulfill those goals because he remains undocumented.
Bartsch was born in Germany but moved to Pandora in the fourth grade with his step-grandfather. The proper documents for him to become an American citizen were never filed. A fact Bartsch didn't realize until 2005 when he went to Immigration and Naturalization Services in Cleveland in an effort to get paperwork to take college entrance exams and to get a driver's license. Instead, he was jailed.
Seven years later, at least he is no longer in fear of being deported.
"The Obama administration has done the right thing by using what they call smart enforcement. They used common sense. They're going after the bad guys, the criminals, the drug dealers, the terrorists. At least that's what they say," said David Leopold, Bartsch's immigration attorney.
But Bartsch can't move forward with his life like most other college graduates and apply for jobs. And he can't go back to Germany-- he no longer even speaks the language.
"I don't know anybody over there. This is my home. This is where everybody I know lives, and to have to think about leaving, I just wouldn't be able to imagine that," said Bartsch.
Anyway, he considers himself American.
Bartsch is applying for work authorization, but his attorney says politics typically slows the process. So, until he can work, Bartsch plans to spread his story.
"I'm going to get in contact with a few organizations, you know, to try to advocate for the DREAM Act. That would be something that is in my major. It's a start. So, I might not be able to get paid for it, but yet I would gain that experience and that would be tremendous."
If he is ever granted citizenship, Bartsch's American History professor believes the challenges Bartsch has faced will inspire him to do great things.
"He has everything it takes to run for office. He has the drive. He has the motivation. He has the personality to actually run for office and make a difference," said Dr. David Hogan, Heidelberg University.
Bartsch doesn't have the money to attend graduate school, and without documentation he can't join the military. For now, he plans to move to Findlay with his longtime girlfriend.