Can We Help Their Dreams Come True?
The Dream Act, if passed, will create a path to legal residency for one group of students. Who qualifies, by what criteria, and how can it happen?
The Dream Act is bipartisan legislation that seeks to secure legal residency for non-documented children who were brought to this country by undocumented immigrant parents; they have grown up in the U.S. knowing no other country as home; they have attended elementary and high school in the U. S. These young persons are in the U.S. through no action of their own and at present have no recourse to citizenship or legal residency. They are victims of parental circumstances. The Dream Act, by setting forth specific requirements for these individuals, seeks to assist them to legal residency.
The most recent version of the DREAM Act, that is Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, was introduced into the Senate in March 2009 by Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). At the same time, the House of Representatives introduced its bill, American Dream Act; it was introduced by Howard Berman (D-CA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).
According to the National Immigration Law Center’s “Dream Act Summary,” updated in March 2009, the DREAM Act would create two major changes in current law:
1. It would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they attend at least two years of college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.
2. It would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes those states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.
To qualify for DREAM Act legal residency, students need to be of good moral character; need to have arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15 years or younger and have lived in the U.S. at least five years before the date that the bill is enacted. These students then would qualify for a conditional permanent residency status once they were accepted to college, graduated from high school or were awarded a GED in the U.S. Individuals would not qualify who are considered a security risk, had committed crimes, or presented with grounds for inadmissibility or removability.
Conditional permanent residency status would be awarded for a limited time, usually six years, as contrasted to lawful permanent resident status. During this time, individuals could work, drive, attend school participating in normal activities as their American friends.
Lawful permanent resident status would be dependent on either 1) graduation from a two-year college, certain vocational colleges, or at least two years of study working toward a B.A. or higher degree, or 2) having served in the U.S. military for at least two years.
Senate Leadership is looking to attach this Act as an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization Bill.