Earlier this month, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced a key immigration reform proposal.
The DREAM Act, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, is intended to extend legal protections to over 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. It was originally introduced in 2001 by Durbin and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), but the bill has not been passed.
Proposed legislation would create a path to permanent residency
Under the terms of the DREAM Act, certain young undocumented residents would have a path to lawful, permanent residency. In order to qualify for these benefits, the applicant must:
- Not have entered the United States on a non-immigrant visa;
- Have arrived in the United States prior to age 16;
- Have lived in the United States for at least five consecutive years;
- Have registered with the Selective Service, if male;
- Be between the age of 12 and 35 at the time the bill is enacted;
- Have a diploma from an American high school or a GED, or be admitted to an institute of higher education; and
- Demonstrate good moral character.
The DREAM Act provides for conditional resident status for immigrants who meet the criteria. During this six-year conditional period, the applicant would be required to meet one of two requirements for permanent residency:
- Attend college for at least two years, either completing a two-year degree or making two years of progress toward a four-year degree; or
- Serve at least two years in any branch of the armed forces.
If, at the end of the six-year conditional period, the qualifying person does not meet one of those criteria, he or she would lose legal status and become subject to deportation.
Senators hope the new administration will make the DREAM Act a reality
The DREAM Act has remained stalled in the Senate for over 16 years, but Senator Graham has reason to believe that the Trump administration could help move the legislation forward by influencing those who oppose it. However, NBC reports that the administration will likely oppose the legislation, especially as it clashes with several state attorneys general over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program. This program was initiated by former President Barack Obama to accomplish goals similar to those of the DREAM Act.
Whether this new federal law passes or not, those who want to legally stay in this great country are guaranteed rights and options. That's why it's so important to retain an experienced immigration lawyer.