Now here is some legislation both parties can support! The Dream Act was introduced in light of concerns that the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program may not survive a legal challenge in the courts this year. This is driving the push for Congress to act now. DACA has been in place since August 2012, through the Obama Administration’s executive order authority. It was issued in response to a lack of cooperation in Congress on getting a bill passed. DACA allows undocumented young persons who have a GED or high school diploma and no serious criminal offenses to obtain a work card and be prevented from deportation for a rolling 2-year period. It has been successful in enrolling an estimated 800,000 undocumented young individuals, predominantly from Mexico.
The Dream Act version proposed by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois (D) and Senator Lindsay Graham (R) allows for conditional residence for an 8-year period for those eligible. Once the condition is removed, the person is a full blown resident and eventually can naturalize to become a US citizen. So a path to citizenship is thus, created.
There are two groups eligible: 1) Those in DACA status who since being granted that status have not committed an inadmissible offense and 2) those undocumented who are NOT in DACA status but:
- have been continuously physically present in the US since the date that is 4 years before the date of the enactment of this Act (approximately 2013);
- was less than 18 years when initially entered the United States;
- does not have a qualifying criminal offense or an issue with terrorism/unlawful activity (such as gangs)
- has not ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person and
- does not have a conviction of any offense under Feral or State law, that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year; or 3 or more offenses under Federal or State law, for which the alien was convicted on different dates for each of the 3 offenses and imprisoned for an aggregate of 90 days or more;
- has been admitted to an institution of higher education; earned a high school diploma or a GED or is currently enrolled in a school or education program assisting students in obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
This latter group of requirements slightly widens the net that was cast by DACA in 2012 – allowing only those who entered the US under the age of 16 in June 2007. Therefore, more people may be eligible.
It is a great start and both chambers (House and Senate) have referred their respective bills to their respective committees to mark up the drafts and hopefully bring them to the chamber floors for a vote. Contact Denver immigration attorney, Catherine Brown, at 303-322-2117 if you have questions about the most recent Dream Act proposal.