The DREAM Act
The views expressed on this page are those of individual authors and may not reflect the views of the U.S. government. The information contained herein should be used for information purposes only.
On Saturday December 18, 2010 the U.S. Senate fell five votes short of advancing the DREAM Act, ending — for now — the 10-year quest of chief sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin to pass an immigration bill to allow undocumented students a pathway to remain in the country legally.
The Dream Act is a proposal introduced to both the House and the Senate by senators and representatives from both the Democratic and the Republican parties. It gives some immigrants of “good moral character” who were brought to the U.S. before they were 16 years old a chance to obtain a residency, or a green card. And although the resident status would be conditional for the first six years it would make it possible for the once-illegal immigrant to one day achieving the dream of becoming a U.S. citizen.
In order to qualify as a beneficiary of the DREAM Act illegal immigrants must be between 12 and 35 when the bill is enacted. They must also be able to prove that they came to the U.S. before they were 16 years old, and that they have lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years since that time of arrival. To qualify for a Green Card through the DREAM Act beneficiaries must also have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED. In addition they must be of good moral character, as described by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; in other words they must not have been involved in any felonies or drug-related crimes.
Those who qualify will get a temporary legal residency for six years. Before the six years have passed they must have either completed a two-year college degree or finished – “in good standing” – at least two years toward a bachelor’s degree or higher in the United States. Another option is to serve at least two years in the military. Those who have served for two years and then left the military must have received an honorable discharge. Immigrant students who qualify for the temporary resident status would also be allowed to apply for a student loan or work study. They would not, however, qualify for Pell Grants.
Immigrants who are granted the six-year residence would be required to complete the required two years of higher education – or the two years of military service within those six years. The Students who completed the requirements would then become permanent residents. This would in time give them an opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship. On the other hand, students who did not meet the requirements to complete two years of college or military service would have their temporary status be revoked and the student would risk being deported from the U.S.
2,8 million students graduate from American high schools every year. It has been estimated that among those 2.8 million there are about 65,000 illegal immigrants who meet the basic requirements of the DREAM Act. But far from all the illegal immigrants who graduate high school meet the more specific requirements. According to one estimation there are only between 7,000-13,000 college students in the U.S. today that could go on to receive the conditional residency described in the DREAM Act.
Other bills similar to the DREAM Act, or other versions of the DREAM Act has been proposed before, often as parts of other immigration bills, but so far it has never passed. While some blame republicans for the failed attempts at passing the earlier versions of the DREAM Act, there seems to be an attitude change among republicans toward passing the current DREAM Act. Still, there are many who regard the DREAM Act merely as an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and an incentive for people to come to the U.S. illegally. But others argue that children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents’ crimes, and that the U.S. cannot afford to waste “homegrown talent” who have already been educated by American schools.