By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Myra V. Azucena
In 2003 a bill known as the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced to the Senate. The bill addressed the problems of young immigrants raised in the U.S. and graduated from U.S. schools, but were unable pursue higher education because of the barriers posed by current immigration laws. A new revised version of the bill has been re-introduced in the Senate by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, HR 1684, known as the Student Adjustment Act and has 66 co-sponsors from both parties.
The new Senate version of the DREAM Act would provide a path to legalization for immigrant students provided certain criteria are met and would eliminate the federal provision that discourages states from providing in-state tuition rates without regard to immigration status.
Immigrant students will qualify for conditional residency if they grew-up in the U.S., graduated from high school, and can demonstrate good moral character. Conditional residency period is six years. Permanent resident status will be granted after six years provided the conditional resident attended college, joined the military, or performed a significant amount of community service.
Additionally, applicants must establish they entered before their sixteenth birthday, lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to the bill’s enactment, and are persons of good moral character. Applicants would not qualify if they committed certain crimes, pose a security risk, or are inadmissible or removable on other grounds.
The DREAM Act affords all students, regardless of their immigration status, with an opportunity to pursue higher education. The contributions of these college educated immigrants will also benefit the U.S. economy.
The lack of bipartisan support is what defeated the immigration reform legislation, but this Senate Bill has a good chance of becoming law based on Senator Hatch and Durbin’s bipartisan support. R&A remains optimistic.