In 2001, a bill was introduced into the Senate that achieved broad support
from both sides of the aisle. Titled “The Dream Act,” it would
provide a pathway to citizenship for people who arrived in the United
States illegally before the age of 18. Rather than criminalizing hundreds
of thousands of innocent people, it would offer them the opportunity to
become fearless and full-fledged U.S. citizens. The law was named for
the group of undocumented immigrants who arrived as children: the Dreamers.
Unfortunately, it has yet to pass into law.
In 2012, Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Initiative—a policy that would protect Dreamers from deportation
and allow them to work. The policy has protected more than one million
Dreamers from removal, acting in the spirit of the Dream Act. However,
it has not provided them with a definite path to citizenship—only
some protection until a legal solution can be found (or passed).
The bad news is that DACA may be coming to an end in the near future. Ten
states, led by Texas, have asked President Trump to end the policy and
have filed a lawsuit to challenge its legality. Homeland Security Secretary
John Kelly has expressed his support of the initiative—but has also
commented that DACA would not survive a prolonged legal battle.
The time is short, which is why two Senators—one Democrat and one
Republican—have reintroduced the bill for passage in 2017. The new
Dream Act is sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Richard
Durbin (D-IL). The bill would provide legal status to undocumented immigrants
who have arrived in the United States prior to the age of 18.
Specifically, the bill would provide a path to citizenship for those who
meet the following criteria:
- They entered the United States before age 18
- They entered the United States 4 years prior to enactment and never left
- Have not been sentenced to more than a year’s imprisonment for a
- Have not been convicted of 3 offenses with a combined time of 90 days imprisonment
- Have been accepted to a trade school or college
- Have graduated high school/earned a GED or is currently enrolled to do so
Anyone who meets these criteria would be granted Conditional Permanent
Resident status for up to 8 years, allowing them to finish their education
or enter the workforce. People with CPR status will also be eligible to
earn their green card after two years of higher education, three years
of employment, or honorable discharge following two years of military
service. There will also be an alternative path for people with disabilities
or full-time parents of a minor child.
Our firm sincerely hopes that this proposal passes in both the House and
the Senate. DACA holders were brought to the US, in many cases, without
a choice. They consider the US to be their home and know no other. It
is time that we allow them to live without fear of separation from their
families and truly become part of this great nation of Americans they’ve
already shown themselves to be.