For over a decade, Congress has debated whether to allow undocumented immigrant students and soldiers to earn permanent resident status. Despite the support of a bipartisan coalition of legislators, however, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is not yet a reality.
In December 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act, but the proposed legislation died before reaching the Senate floor. The Act was reintroduced in May 2011, giving it hope for future passage.
The Act would benefit a narrow category of children of illegal immigrants, allowing them to adjust their status to conditional permanent residents. Adjustment of status, a step on the pathway toward U.S. citizenship, would not be automatic. Instead, applicants would have to do the following:
- Prove they entered the country when they were under 16 years old
- Prove they lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years
- Prove they graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED
- Prove they have not committed any crimes that would make them inadmissible to the country
- Demonstrate their good moral character
After six years, they would have to prove they attended college or served in the U.S. military for at least two years, pass a criminal background check and demonstrate good moral character. If they meet the requirements, they would become permanent residents with green cards; failing to do so could result in losing one's legal status and becoming subject to deportation/removal.
"No Fault of Their Own"
Supporters emphasize that the Act benefits those whose illegal entry into the U.S. was through no fault of their own; rather, their illegal status resulted from their parents' decisions. Critics decry the Act as a measure that unfairly grants amnesty to illegal immigrants and undermines the hard work and time spent by aspiring immigrants already in the immigration pipeline. According to the White House, though, the Act sets forth a lengthy and rigorous process requiring responsibility and accountability.
Whether the DREAM Act will ever be an option is uncertain. For now, the DREAM ACT remains only a dream. In the meantime, individuals who desire to fix their status should take the time to consult with a skilled immigration lawyer to educate themselves and explore practical options under the current state of the law.