Is it better to Achieve, or to Dream? That is a question that was raised late last year by Senators Hutchison, Kyl, and McCain. They introduced the Achieve Act, which acts as a counter-offer to the Democrats’ Dream Act. Both Acts seek to offer legal status to illegal aliens who came to the United States as children. (As of now, neither of these proposed Acts are law.) But if these are competing offers, then exactly has each party put on the table? Who is Eligible:Under the Dream Act, illegal aliens who are under the age of 36, and who entered the country before the age of 16, have resided in the United States for at least 5 continuous years prior to the enactment of the act, have a High School or GED degree, or who are currently enrolled in post-secondary education have not been convicted of any crime, either state or federal, punishable by more than one year in prison, and have not been convicted of three or more offenses, from different dates, which totaled 90 or more days of imprisonment, are eligible. Under the Achieve Act, illegal aliens who… are under the age of 28 (or 32 if they have a college degree), and who entered the country before the age of 14, have resided in the United States for at least 5 continuous years prior to the enactment of the act, have a High School or GED degree and are currently in post-secondary education or the military, and have not been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor punishable by more than thirty days of imprisonment, with the exceptions of traffic violations not involving drugs or alcohol, are eligible. What do the Acts Offer for qualifying aliens?The Dream Act… offers conditional permanent residency. The alien will then have six years to either attain a two-year college degree, complete two years towards a four year degree, or serve at least two years in the military. offers eligibility for federal work study and student loans (with the exception of Pell grants and some other forms of federal aid) offers eligibility for public benefits (such as Medicaid, and health insurance through Affordable Care Act exchanges. The Achieve Act offers… up to 6 years on W-1 Status, during which they must complete a 4 year college degree or serve 4 years in the military. During this time, qualifying aliens must check-in every six months to ensure that they do not use any government aid or apply for a green card. This is followed by… up to 4 years on W-2 Status. This provides the qualifying alien with a work visa. This is followed by… W-3 Status, which is renewable every 4 years. When on W-3 status, a qualifying alien can attempt to adjust their status to permanent residency, if they meet the normal requirements. No special path to permanent residency, or citizenship, is offered. What fees and travel restrictions are associated with the Act?The Dream Act… fees are yet to be determined.The Achieve Act… has $3,275 in fees, spread out of 15 years, and with $525 renewal fees thereafter. restricts qualifying aliens to no more than 90 days of travel outside of the United States. Note: the Dream Act is not the same program as what is currently out there now, namely, Deferred Action Status for Childhood Arrivals. As can be seen above, the Achieve Act, when compared to the Dream Act, has far more stringent eligibility requirements, does not allow for any government benefits, and is more expensive and burdensome for qualifying aliens. And perhaps the most glaring difference is that where the Dream Act offers conditional permanent residency and a path to citizenship, the Achieve Act only offers a non-permanent resident visa, without a path to permanent residency. So when answering the question, “Is it better to Achieve or to Dream?” remember that the two choices are not equal.
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