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 single crime
- 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.