The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is an American legislative proposal first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, S. 1291 by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch.
This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within the six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency if they have "acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States" or have "served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge". Military enlistment contracts require an eight-year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years. However, the military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist, and those that have enlisted have done so under a false identity, or used fraudulent documents. "Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated... shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act." This bill would have included illegal aliens as old as 35 years of age. As of November 2013, 13 states have their own versions of the DREAM Act, which deal with tuition prices and financial aid for state universities. These states are Texas, California, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Minnesota. The Maryland DREAM Act was approved by state-wide ballot, winning 59% of the vote on November 6, 2012.
Supporters argue that the Act would not create an "amnesty program" and would produce a variety of social and economic benefits, while critics contend that it would reward illegal immigration and encourage further illegal immigration, inviting fraud and shielding gang members from deportation.
Members of Congress have introduced several forms of this bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members in the House passed one such bill on December 8, 2010 by a vote of 216-198; Senators debated a version of the DREAM Act on September 21, 2010. A previous version of the bill, S. 2205, which required 60 votes to gain cloture, failed on a 52-44 vote in 2007, 8 votes short of overcoming a filibuster by senators opposed to the bill.
The United States military faced challenges in enlistment, which in 2005 were described as a "crisis", though the economic downturn of 2007-2010 did away with many of the enlistment challenges. Immigrants without a United States Permanent Resident Card (also known as a green card) are not allowed to enlist. In 2007, several senior officials at the Department of Defense have spoken in favor of promising resident status to members of the military as a means of boosting recruitment.
Under the 2009 version of the Senate bill DREAM Act beneficiaries must:
- Not have entered the United States on a non-immigrant Visa.
- Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
- Have proof of residence in the United States for at least five consecutive years since their date of arrival.
- If male, have registered with the Selective Service.
- Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment.
- Have graduated from an American high school, obtained a GED, or been admitted to an institution of higher education.
- Be of good moral character.
During the first six years, qualifying people would be granted "conditional" status and would be required to (a) graduate from a two-year community college or (b) complete at least two years towards a four-year degree or (c) serve two years in the US military. After this six-year period, those who meet at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for permanent resident status. During this six-year conditional period, they would not be eligible for federal higher education grants such as Pell grants but they would be able to apply for student loans and work study.
If they have met all of the conditions at the end of the 6-year conditional period, they would be granted permanent residency, which would eventually allow them to become U.S. citizens. It is not known how many of those eligible would go on to complete the further requirements. One organization estimated that only 7,000–13,000 college students nationally can fulfill the further obligations. A different analysis found that over 2 million individuals could benefit under the Act.
The bill also restores the option for states to determine residency for purposes of higher education benefits by repealing Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 (8 U.S.C. § 1623. The majority of states interpret this provision as disqualifying undocumented students from certain higher education benefits such as in-state tuition rates. Some states have enacted laws aimed at making unauthorized state residents eligible for in-state tuition rates without violating this IIRIRA provision. However, some students paying out-of-state tuition have filed lawsuits in these states, claiming state education officials violated this federal law.
A similar version of the DREAM Act was introduced on April 25, 2001 by Representative Luis Gutiérrez as the "Immigrant Children's Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act of 2001" (H.R. 1582) during the 107th Congress. This bill received 34 cosponsors, and would have allowed illegal immigrant students to first apply to be protected from deportation and then apply for and receive lawful permanent residency if they met the following criteria:
- good moral character;
- enrollment in a secondary or post-secondary education program or current application to a college or junior college;
- entered the United States by age 16 and were no older than 25;
- resided continuously in the United States for a minimum of five years.
One month later, on May 21, 2001, Gutiérrez's version of the bill was scrapped in favor of a more limited version entitled "Student Adjustment Act of 2001" (H.R. 1918). This version of the bill lowered age eligibility to 21 years of age and garnered 62 cosponsors. On August 1, 2001 a mirror bill to the "Student Adjustment Act of 2001" was introduced in the Senate by Republican Congressman Orrin Hatch. This legislation, S. 1291, was the first bill given the short title of "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act" or "DREAM Act." Since that time the DREAM Act has been introduced in both the Senate and the House at various times.
- In the Senate: S. 1545 (108th Congress), S. 2075 (109th Congress), S. 774 (110th Congress), and S. 2205 (110th Congress).
- In the House: H.R. 1684 (108th Congress), H.R. 5131 (109th Congress), and H.R. 1275 (110th Congress).
The text of the bill was placed in various other immigration-related bills, including the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611) and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348). With the failure of these comprehensive reform bills, Richard Durbin, the chief proponent of the DREAM Act in the Senate, made its passage a top priority for 2007.
However, there was a misconception that the bill required states to give in-state tuition to the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act when it allowed but did not require states to offer in-state to certain illegal immigrant students. Also, the legislation did not include an age cap.
In light of the criticism, Durbin tabled the amendment in favor of a rewritten DREAM Act amendment to the Defense Bill. In consideration of their opponents, all language regarding in-state tuition was removed from the amendment and an age cap of 30 was put in place for potential beneficiaries. Military leaders embraced the bill, which included the promise of resident status to members of the military, as a means of boosting recruitment. Nevertheless, the amendment was not brought up for a vote.
On October 18, 2007, Durbin, along with Republican co-sponsors Charles Hagel and Richard Lugar, introduced the DREAM Act as S. 2205. Though nearly identical to the revised amendment to the Defense Bill, opponents continued to cite previous arguments. To bring the DREAM Act up for debate, a vote was scheduled on October 24 that would require a filibuster-proof count of 60 yes votes, but that failed.
Senate opponents cited a variety of reasons for their opposition. Some labeled the DREAM Act as amnesty that would encourage chain migration and further unauthorized immigration in anticipation of new versions of the DREAM Act. Others stated that the DREAM Act, though worthy legislation, should be enacted only as part of a comprehensive immigration reform. In light of the Senate's failure to successfully pass a single appropriations bill, some Senators stated that the DREAM Act was a distraction to more pressing matters and should rather be considered in January 2008. Finally, debate emerged as to the amendment process for the DREAM Act, specifically, how willing the Democratic leadership would be in allowing debate of Republican amendments.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who had previously stated that she would oppose consideration of the DREAM Act, announced on the Senate floor that she had expressed reservations to Durbin and he had made a verbal commitment to work with her to make changes that she saw necessary to garner greater Republican support. In response, Durbin announced that the first amendment that would be considered, should debate of the DREAM Act begin, would completely re-write the bill in favor of the language that Hutchison suggested. According to her suggestions, illegal immigrant students should be allowed to hold a temporary student visa with a renewable work permit instead of conditional permanent residency. Although 52 Senators voted in favor of considering the DREAM Act, this fell eight votes short of breaking filibuster and the legislation was not considered.
The act was re-introduced in both chambers of Congress on Thursday, March 26, 2009, during the 111th Congress by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Harry Reid (D-NV), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA). To date, 128 representatives and 39 senators (not including former Senator Edward Kennedy) co-sponsored the bill. Under this version of the DREAM Act, immigrants could qualify in part, by meeting the following requirements:
- Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time the Law is enacted
- Arrived in the United States before the age of 16
- Resided continuously in the United States for at least 5 consecutive years since the date of their arrival
- Graduated from a US high school or obtained a General Education Diploma
- Good moral character
In addition to the temporary Residency, illegal immigrant students who qualified would also be entitled to apply for student loans and work study but would not be eligible for Pell grants. In certain circumstances, the illegal immigrant could lose temporary immigration residency if the illegal immigrant did not meet the educational or military service requirement within the six-year time period or if they committed any crimes (other than those considered non-drug related misdemeanors) regardless of whether or not they had already been approved for permanent status at the end of their six years. If an illegal immigrant were convicted of a major crime or drug-related infraction, (except for a single offense of possession of 30 g or less of marijuana) they would automatically lose the six-year temporary residence status and be immediately subject to deportation.
The 111th Congress continued to consider the DREAM Act bill throughout 2010. S. 3992, a new version of the DREAM Act, includes numerous changes to address concerns raised about the bill.
- It does not repeal the ban on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The DREAM Act does not force states to charge in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants. The DREAM Act does not allow illegal immigrants to gain access to Federal Pell Grants and other financial aid.
- It lowers the age cap for eligibility for the DREAM Act to 29 on the date of enactment. Additionally, to be eligible, individuals still must have come to the US as children (15 or under), graduated from a U.S. High School (or received a GED from a US institution), and be long-term residents (at least five years). An earlier version of the DREAM Act (S. 1545 in the 108th Congress), authored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and cosponsored by Senator John McCain, did not include any age cap. This bill was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on a 16–3 vote.
- It does not grant resident status to anyone for at least two years. Previous versions of the DREAM Act would have immediately granted resident status to individuals who met the bill's requirements. Under S. 3992, an individual could obtain “conditional nonimmigrant” status if they prove that they meet the age (currently 29 or under and arrived in the U.S. at 15 or under) and residency requirements (five years or more) and have done the following:
- Graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED;
- Been a person of “good moral character”, as determined by the Department of Homeland Security, from the date the individual initially entered the U.S. (previous versions of the DREAM Act only required an individual to be a person of good moral character from the date of the bill's enactment);
- Submitted biometric information;
- Underwent security and law-enforcement background checks;
- Underwent a medical examination; and
- Registers for the Selective Service.
- Further limits eligibility for conditional non-immigrant status by specifically excluding anyone who has done the following:
- Has committed one felony or three misdemeanors;
- Is likely to become a public charge;
- Has engaged in voter fraud or unlawful voting;
- Has committed marriage fraud;
- Has abused a student visa;
- Has engaged in persecution; or
- Poses a public health risk.
- Gave a conditional non-immigrant the chance to earn resident status only after two years and only if he meets the DREAM Act's college or military service requirements, and other requirements: pays back taxes and demonstrates the ability to read, write, and speak English and demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States.
- Further limited "chain migration". DREAM Act individuals would have very limited ability to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship. They could never sponsor extended family members and could not begin sponsoring parents or siblings for at least 12 years. Parents and siblings who entered the U.S. illegally would have to leave the country for ten years before they could gain resident status and the visa backlog for siblings is decades long.[clarification needed]
- Specifically excluded non-immigrants from the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Conditional non-immigrants also would be ineligible for Medicaid, food stamps and other entitlement programs.
- Established a one-year application deadline. An individual would be required to apply for conditional nonimmigrant status within one year of obtaining a high school degree or GED, being admitted to college, or the bill's date of enactment.
- Required people applying for the DREAM Act to show that they are likely to qualify in order to receive a stay of deportation while his application is pending. The DREAM Act is not a safe harbor from deportation.
- Required the Department of Homeland Security to provide information from an individual's DREAM Act application to any federal, state, tribal, or local law enforcement agency, or intelligence or national security agency in any criminal investigation or prosecution or for homeland security or national security purposes.
- Placed the burden of proof on a DREAM Act applicant. An individual would be required to demonstrate eligibility for the DREAM Act by a preponderance of the evidence.
(Additionally, individuals would continue to be excluded if they have received a final order of deportation, have engaged in criminal activity (as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act), or present a national security or terrorist threat.)
The DREAM Act, along with a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2011. On September 21, 2010, the Senate filibuster of the bill was maintained in a 56–43 vote; it would have taken 60 votes to stop the filibuster and continue the progress of the bill. The following day, Durbin introduced the bill once again along with Richard Lugar. Only two senators co-sponsored the bill and it was defeated again. Less than a month later, on November 16, President Barack Obama and top Democrats pledged to introduce the Dream Act into the House by November 29. The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act on December 8, 2010, but the bill failed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to end debate on the Senate floor (55-41—Motion to invoke cloture on the motion to concur in the House amendment to the Senate amendment No. 3 to H.R. 5281).
On May 11, 2011 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reintroduced the DREAM Act in the Senate. Some Republicans who had supported the bill in the past, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Jon Kyl of Arizona, John McCain of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, withheld their votes, objecting that such a bill should not be granted without increasing immigration enforcement. Reid indicated that he would consider adding a workplace enforcement measure in the DREAM Act that would require every employer to use E-Verify, the government's Internet-based work eligibility verification system. President Obama supported the bill as one of his efforts to reform the US immigration system.
In July 2011, the state of California enacted the California DREAM Act, giving illegal immigrant students access to private college scholarships for state schools. In August, the state of Illinois authorized a privately funded scholarship plan for children of immigrants both legal and illegal.
On August 15, 2012, the same day that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications under the Obama administration’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order preventing the state of Arizona from issuing driver’s licenses and public benefits to young illegal aliens who receive deferred status and work authorization under the new program. In addition to driving privileges, Governor Brewer’s order bars illegal aliens who qualify for deferred action from receiving state-subsidized child care, health insurance, unemployment benefits, business and professional licenses, and government contracts. Thousands of individuals submitted applications for the new program. In late August 2012, ten U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents sued Janet Napolitano, saying the directive forces them to break the law and ignore their duties.
Projections of economic impact
In a December 2010 report, the federal Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the November 30, 2010 version of the DREAM Act would reduce (federal) direct deficits by about $1.4 billion over the 2011-2020 period and increase federal government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years. Indirect federal costs (about 80% of the federal budget) and state and local tax impacts were not considered. The same report also notes that the Act "would increase projected deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 10-year periods starting in 2021". A study conducted by the Center for American Progress, a liberal "progressive" think tank, estimates that if passed, the DREAM Act would create 1.4 million jobs by 2030. How this was to be done was not specified.
Luis Miranda, White House Director of Hispanic Media, has spoken in support of the 2010 version of the DREAM Act. He argues that passage of the Act would make the U.S. more competitive in the global economy by allowing illegal immigrants "to live up to their fullest potential and contribute to the economic growth of our country." Miranda argues that the DREAM Act would not create an "amnesty program" because it requires a "lengthy and rigorous process" to be eligible for benefits, requiring, for example, a criminal background check and proof that the applicant has not committed any crimes that would make him ineligible for residency. Miranda also argues the Act would not encourage more students to immigrate because it only applies to illegal immigrants who are already in the country. Furthermore, the Act would create a waiting period before DREAM Act applicants could sponsor green card applications for their relatives. Miranda also notes that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has stated that the DREAM Act would provide an expanded pool of military recruits.
A 2010 study by UCLA's North American Integration and Development Center, an advocacy and research group that focuses on "transnationalism and globalization through action research", conducting "interdisciplinary research concerning the economic integration process between the United States, Mexico and Canada", produced two estimates of the income that would be earned by illegal immigrants who would be potentially eligible for the proposed DREAM Act benefits. The first estimate is based on analysis from a study by the Migration Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, an organization seeking to "advance the economic mobility and social inclusion of immigrants in the United States", which estimated that 38% of those eligible for the DREAM Act's benefits would actually obtain legal permanent resident status. In that scenario, the NAIDC estimates that DREAM Act beneficiaries would earn $1.4 trillion over a 40-year period. On the other hand, NAIDC estimates that if all illegal immigrants eligible for DREAM Act benefits successfully met the education or military service requirements and obtained legal resident status, they would earn $3.6 trillion over the same 40-year period. How many dollars they would use of available federal, state and local resources over the 40-year period were not estimated.
Opponents of the DREAM Act argue that it encourages and rewards illegal immigration, acting as a "magnet" attracting more illegal immigrants and creating a chain migration by family members. Other stands include viewing it as importing poverty and cheap labor, being a military recruitment tool, having economic and social burdens (subsidies from state and federal taxes, degradation of the public school system and neighborhoods), and as being unfair to American-born and legal immigrant parents and children who must pay full tuition at state universities and colleges. Some concerns center on the parameters of the proposal, specifically that it would admit individuals who have already formed their identities overseas (i.e. people who arrived up to age 16), that illegal aliens up to age 35 are allowed to legalize through it, that it would result in massive fraud similar to the 1986 amnesty, and that it will encourage additional illegal immigration. There are additional concerns that the DREAM Act will shield gang members from deportation.
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