Dream Act 2023
Author: New York Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova
While the American political divide is as wide as ever, some sparks of unity still shine through. Earlier this month, two senators from either side of the party aisle demonstrated rare bipartisan consensus. It is important to understand exactly what the Dream Act is and why it is so deeply tied to immigration. That will make the recent bipartisan support for it all the more special.
Presenting a Unified Stance on Immigration
Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illinois jointly announced the latest version of the Dream Act. This comes as immigration is once again making the rounds as a hot topic within government circles.
The Dream Act has been the topic of many debates on congressional floors over the years. This latest version of the Dream Act is not too different from previous iterations. It is more about properly encoding the protections the original versions of the Dream Act provide.
A Path to Citizenship for Immigrant Children
The Dream Act is a piece of immigration reform legislation that was aimed at making access to citizenship easier. It was specifically designed for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The Dream Act makes citizenship available to those who have lived in the country for a specified period of time. To be eligible, these individuals must be of good moral character and have no criminal record. They must also have completed high school or its equivalent, or have served in the military.
The Dream Act has been in circulation since 2001, and various iterations of the bill have reached Congress in the past. The bill has not enjoyed a great deal of support previously. However, this latest version marks a significant step forward, as it has been meet with enthusiasm from both Republicans and Democrats.
Immigration: A Topic of Controversy
The right-leaning half of the American government has traditionally opposed legislation that was favorable to immigrants. Indeed, former President Trump went to great lengths to cut back support for immigration. His replacement, President Biden has just begun more concerted efforts to reform the immigration laws. This was one of the key topics on his agenda: reversing the actions of the previous administration and its hard line on immigration.
Back in 2012, President Obama had to create the DACA program after Republicans repeatedly stalled the Dream Act. However, the DACA program does not provide any access to citizenship. That is why restructuring the Dream Act is important, at least in the eyes of the two senators behind this bill.
What Makes The New Bill Unique
The new bill being proposed by the two senators offers a number of key benefits for eligible individuals. Firstly, it provides a path to citizenship, allowing these individuals to live and work in the United States legally. This, in turn, opens up a range of opportunities for these individuals. They will have access to better job prospects, higher education, and the ability to travel freely.
- The Dream Act of 2023 creates a conditional permanent resident status valid for up to eight years for Dreamers that would protect them from removal, allow them to work legally in the U.S. and permit them to travel outside the country.
- To qualify for conditional permanent resident status, dreamers would need to meet the following requirements:
- Demonstrate that they were brought to the U.S. at age 17 or younger (the exact age may change) and have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least four years prior to the bill’s enactment;
- Pass a government background check, demonstrate “good moral character” with no felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions, submit biometric and biographic data, and undergo a biometric and medical exam;
- Demonstrate they have been admitted to a college or university, have earned a high school diploma, or are in the process of earning a high school diploma or an equivalent; and
- Pay a filing fee.
- The bill would automatically grant conditional permanent resident status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who still meet the requirements needed to obtain DACA.
- Conditional permanent resident status can be changed to lawful permanent resident (LPRs or green-card holder) status as soon as they meet the following conditions:
- Maintain continuous residence in the U.S.;
- Complete one of the following three requirements:
- Graduate from a college or university, or complete at least two years of a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S. (education track);
- Complete at least two years of honorable military service (military track); or
- Have worked for a period totaling at least three years (worker track);
- Demonstrate an ability to read, write and speak English and an understanding of American history, principles and form of government;
- Pass a government background check, continue to demonstrate “good moral character” without felony or multiple misdemeanor convictions, submit biometric and biographic data, and undergo a biometric and medical exam; and
- Pay a filing fee.
- Recipients can lose conditional permanent resident status if they commit a serious crime or fail to meet the other requirements set in the bill.
This is an unofficial summary, as the exact text of the Bill has not been published yet as of 02/17/2023.
Speaking on the new proposal, Senator Durbin mentioned that the Dream Act has remained virtually unchanged for a while now. He also pointed out that congressional action is required to fully protect the rights of eligible individuals. Senator Graham stated that the goal is to expand the scope of the bill. Their wish is to make it a broad immigration package and not a single bill.
Benefits of the New Bill for Eligible Individuals
The Dream Act provides a solution for many child immigrants who currently live in fear of being deported. These are people who have grown up in America but never truly had the opportunity to be called Americans. The bill offers them a sense of security, as it allows them to come out of the shadows and live openly in the United States. This, in turn, allows them to contribute more fully to the country, both economically and socially.
The Dream Act is not only beneficial for those individuals who would be eligible for citizenship, but it also has the potential to benefit the country as a whole. This bill has the potential to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. By providing a pathway to citizenship for these individuals, the United States would be able to tap into their potential. They would contribute to the economy by working, paying taxes, and participating in society more fully.
Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Dick Durbin have worked tirelessly to bring the latest version of the Dream Act to the forefront of political discussion. The latest version of the Dream Act is a significant step forward in the quest for comprehensive immigration reform. Their efforts have led to growing support for the bill from both Republicans and Democrats. The current trend suggests that a codified Dream Act may finally become a reality.