There are thousands of undocumented immigrant students, brought to this country as young children who have grown up in the U.S., excelled in school, and are American in every sense except for their papers. However, when it comes time to apply for college, many find the door to enrollment effectively shut because they lack legal immigration status. They are not eligible for the resident tuition rate at state-supported colleges and universities—even though they may have graduated from their state’s elementary and high schools. In addition, undocumented students are not eligible for any type of federal financial aid. Other young men and women who wish to join the uniformed military services are also shut out of enlisting. Even if these students are able to make it through college, they graduate without the legal right to work in this country. These children and young adults are the embodiment of individual merit and achievement. In recognition of this fact, members of Congress have introduced legislation to clear a path towards legal immigration status that would allow these students to pursue their education and put their college degrees to good use, or to contribute to this country through military service.
The “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” (DREAM Act) is bipartisan legislation that has been introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) (S. 952) and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) (H.R. 1842). The measure has thirty-four Senate and twelve House co-sponsors. This bill, which has consistently received bipartisan support since its first introduction in 2001, benefits talented immigrant children who have long-term residency in the U.S and who complete at least 2 years of college or military service. Under the DREAM Act, individuals would qualify for conditional permanent resident status if they:
- came to the U.S. prior to the age of 15 (and are no older than the age of 32 in the House version and 35 in the Senate version-Senate version only);
- have lived in the U.S. for at least five years before the passage of the bill;
- graduate from a U.S. high school; and
- can demonstrate “good moral character,” a common immigration law term that means that the individual is not a security risk, has not committed any crimes, and is not inadmissible or removable on other grounds.
These qualifying children would then have six years of conditional permanent resident status to complete at least two years of college or military service. Only after meeting these requirements, would they be granted full permanent residence (a green card).
The DREAM Act is about common sense solutions to fixing our broken immigration system. Placing higher education and citizenship out of reach for hard-working immigrant students does not force them to leave our country—the only country they call home. Instead, it forces them to remain in the underground workforce while America is deprived of the increased economic productivity and the tax revenues provided by a better-educated workforce.
It’s time to restore the American ideal of equal opportunity for these young people who want to be productive contributors to our society. The DREAM Act is an important component in the fight to reform our immigration system in a manner that strengthens our economic competitiveness, upholds our values as a nation of immigrants, and restores the rule of law.
Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2011
- S. 952, introduced in the Senate by Richard Durbin (D-IL) and 32 cosponsors. (List of co-sponsors.)
- H.R. 1842, introduced in the House by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Under the DREAM Act, individuals would qualify for conditional permanent resident status if they came to the U.S. prior to the age of 15, lived in the U.S. for at least five years before the passage of the bill, graduated from a U.S. high school, and can demonstrate “good moral character.” These qualifying children would then have six years to complete at least two years of college or military service before gaining full permanent residence. (List of co-sponsors.)
Both the House and Senate versions were introduced on May 11, 2011. On June 28, 2011, the Senate Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on the DREAM Act. Witnesses included Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, and Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Margaret Stock. Testimony of all of the witnesses and a video recording of the hearing can be obtained on the Judiciary Committee’s Web site.
Source: National Immigration Forum