The DREAM Act: What Is It and Where are the DREAMers?

The DREAM Act was a proposal to help undocumented children of undocumented immigrants who weren’t born in the U.S. Under the proposal, if these children grew up in the United States, they would receive a clear pathway to legal status. The DREAM Act is unfortunately still a dream, having been introduced as a bill several times, most recently in 2011. The DREAMers are still with us, some receiving limited benefits through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and some through state DREAM Acts, although no such law exists in Kentucky.

The DREAM Act was proposed legislation meant to address immigration issues faced by young people who grew up and graduated from high school in the United States, but whose future was uncertain because of their immigration status. The most pressing immigration issue facing these young people is the fact that current law generally states that a child’s immigration status is derived from the status of his or her parents. If the child wasn’t born in the U.S., and his parents are undocumented, most don’t have a way to obtain legal residency.

Under certain circumstances, the DREAM Act, if passed, would have provided different approaches to obtaining legal status under certain conditions.

Primarily, the DREAM Act would have a major impact on immigration law by eliminating the penalty against states that offer lower, in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. Under the 2011 version of the DREAM Act, most students entering the U.S. at age 15 or younger, at least five years prior to the date of the bill’s enactment, who maintained good moral character since entering the U.S., would qualify for conditional permanent resident status upon acceptance to college, graduation from a U.S. high school, or being awarded a GED in the U.S.

  • This would be similar to lawful permanent status but its duration would be limited to six years (under normal circumstances).
  • Under the conditional permanent resident status, students could work, drive, go to school and participate in society just as any citizen, but generally they couldn’t travel abroad for lengthy periods.
  • They would not be eligible for Pell Grants or certain other federal financial aid grants, but they could get federal work study and student loans.
  • Time spent by young people in conditional permanent resident status would count toward the residency requirements for naturalization.

Students would not qualify if they had committed crimes, were a demonstrated security risk, or were inadmissible or removable on certain other grounds.

To move beyond the conditional status and become a lawful permanent resident, during the conditional phase these young adults would need to:

  • Maintain good moral character
  • Not go on lengthy trips abroad
  • Meet at least one of the following requirements: graduate from a two-year college or certain vocational colleges, study for at least two years toward a bachelor’s or higher degree, or serve in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years.

Since the DREAM Act didn’t pass, the Obama Administration, through its executive authority, enacted DACA in order for these children and young adults to get some of the benefits of the proposal. This enactment will be covered in our next blog.

Just because the DREAM Act didn’t become law, it doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Call CF Abogados today at (859) 971-0060 or fill out the online contact form to find out what you can do to obtain permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.