The DREAM Act has been in the news a lot these days, and, by extension, the Dreamers. As an immigration attorney, cocktail banter quickly turns into a ongoing treatise about whichever attention-grabbing headline about immigrant reform is making its rounds in the social media world. After the nth question about The DREAM Act, I hereby present to you:
“Everything you wanted to know about The DREAM Act, but was too afraid to ask”
by Michael G. Murray, Esq.
1. What is the DREAM Act?
“DREAM” is a handy acronym for “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors.” The term “Alien” refers to any non-United States Citizen. (As opposed to “bobble-headed, green faced creature in Spielberg movies).
The DREAM Act is a bi-partisan bill, written by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch. In a nutshell, the DREAM Act provides conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who: 1) graduate from U.S. high schools; 2) arrived in the United States as minors; and, 3) lived in the United States continuously for at least 5 years prior to the bill’s enactment.
2. Are those the only three requirements for an Alien minor to obtain conditional permanent residency?
Well, there’s always more to it. If an applicant completes 2 years at at a 4 year institution of higher learning, or 2 years in the military, he/she may be eligible for temporary residency for a 6 year period. During this 6 year period, the applicant is not eligible for federal higher education grants (e.g. Pell grants), but may be eligible for student loans and work study.
3. OK, then what?
If all the conditions necessary for adjustment under the DREAM Act are met*, the applicant may then apply to become a United States Citizen at the culmination of the 6 year period.
*There are numerous requirements which are best discussed with your attorney.
4. How many people would benefit from The DREAM Act?
A study conducted by The Urban Institute estimated that between 7,000 – 13,000 individuals could fulfill the requirements set forth in the DREAM Act. A different analysis showed that over 2 million individuals could benefit from the DREAM Act.
5. Why does the DREAM Act matter, and why should I care?
In my home state of Florida, with her 150,000 plus DREAM-eligible youth, an estimated $21 billion in total economic impact and more than 19,000 new jobs is projected, should The DREAM Act pass. This is due to two factors; 1) The DREAM Act provides a strong incentive for applicants to complete their high school, and pursue some college and/or military service. This enables DREAM-eligible youth to obtain higher-paying jobs, and subsequently, build a stronger tax base when they become adults; 2) The very act of obtaining legal status allows for these young Americans to apply for better jobs, instead of low-paying jobs that are often available to undocumented immigrants.
6. Again why should I care? I’m already a United States Citizen.
If you’re not already convinced by the solid and oft-studied economic benefits of DREAM Act passage, consider this: passing the DREAM Act sends a clear message to young immigrants to pursue higher education, and to serve our country. Both are laudable goals. Not passing the DREAM Act sends a markedly opposite message. A message, one would argue, that is completely antithetical to the American Dream.
7. What is the difference between the DREAM Act and the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action (DACA) program?
Simply put, the DREAM Act allows undocumented youths to pursue a path to legal citizenship, provided all the requirements are met.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was put in place by President Obama, directing ICE and CBP (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol, respectively) to practice prosecutorial discretion in the deportation of individuals who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. DACA does not confer law immigration status, alter an alien’s existing status, or offer a path to citizenship.
8. Where do I go more information about the DREAM Act?
You can visit this link, or contact Michael G. Murray at: [email protected] ; or 305-895-2500.