Imagine Dreamers Dream (Dream Act)! You came to a country as a child and had been living there for many years. You did your schooling from there, and this is the only country you possibly know. After so many years, you find out that you are not a registered citizen of that country and are an illegal citizen residing in that country. What on God’s earth would go through you? Your life will lose all its colors in a blink of an eye, and you will not know what to do now.
This is what has happened to thousands of people living in the United States. They were brought into the US illegally by their parents, as a child , possibly for a better future. They have been living in the US since their arrival and have to live in the shadows because of the illegal nature of their stay. In 2001, to protect the status of these people US senators Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, introduced a bill in the senate known as Development, Relief, and education for alien Minors act (DREAM ACT) however, despite several attempts to pass this legislative proposal, it has not become a law.
DREAM ACT – THE NEED AND THE REALITY
US current immigration law provides a path of citizenship to young people under 21 years of age and unmarried, based on their immediate relationship with any green card holder. But what about the youth whose parents are undocumented or in immigration limbo and living in the US for years?
Before introducing the legislative proposal of the DREAM Act, there was no legal route for these people to obtain a green card irrespective of having spent many years in the US. The DREAM Act allows and provides a mechanism to these people to obtain, firstly, ‘conditional permanent residence status’ and later ‘lawful permanent residence status’ upon fulfilling certain conditions.
Dreamers got their name from the DREAM act. People who come under the umbrella of the DREAM act are popularly known as ‘Dreamers.’
BACKGROUND OF DREAM ACT
The original version of the DREAM act was introduced in the congress by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch in the year 2001 but failed to become a law. Since then, many versions of the DREAM act were put forward in the congress and neither one of them became law. In 2010, the DREAM Act came so close to breaking a filibuster in the Senate, falling 5 votes short of 60 needed to advance the house- passed bill.
Shattered hopes of dreamers and deportation of innocent because of failure to pass the bill have led President Obama to come into the picture. President Obama in 2012 decides if congress is not going to act, he will not allow this to continue. So DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was announced by President Obama using his executive authority on June 15, 2012.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
This program allows people who were illegally brought to the US by their parents as a child to get a renewable extended stay for two years upon fulfilling certain conditions. This program does not open a path to citizenship; however, it does provide a deferred action of deportation for two years, allows a work permit, and to obtain social security number and driving license.
As per USCIS data, almost 650k people are DACA recipients residing in the US as of 2018. However, other immigration researchers think that the figure could go as high as 800k.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION AND DACA
The Trump administration was never in support of continuing DACA and has made attempts to dismantle this program disregarding the fact that it would impact so many people who are DACA recipients. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to end the DACA program was unlawful.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND IMMIGRATION REFORMS
The Biden government has taken a significant step towards Immigration reform in the US in their initial phase of 100 days. In subsequence of Biden’s early announcement on the first day of his office about the US Citizenship act of 2021, Representative Linda Sanchez (D-California) introduced the bill in the house on February 18, 2021, and Senator Bob Menendez introduced this bill in the Senate on the same day.
This bill is broad and giving immigration status to about 11 million undocumented people in the US. The passing of this bill in both houses would not be easy. Even some Democrats were not in favor of passing this bill, including most of the republicans, and giving legal status to all 11 million illegal immigrants. So to combat this, part of the bill was introduced in congress, which would grant legal status to only the DREAMers and people holding TPS status by the name ‘American Dream and Promise act, 2021′.
AMERICAN DREAM AND PROMISE ACT OF 2021
Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6) on March 03, 2021. This bill is the critical step in promising legal status to DREAMers, TPS holders, and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). This bill was previously introduced in 2019 during 116th Congress in the house (H.R. 6) and was passed by 237 to 187 votes but did not make enough in the senate. Again in the 117th Congress Dream and Promise Act was passed by 228-197 and moved to the Senate.
The bill sponsor claims that this bill would provide a pathway of citizenship to about 2.5million Dreamers including DACA recipients.
This bill proposes to create a 3 step pathway of citizenship for dreamers.
- Dreamers could apply for ‘Conditional Permanent Residence’ status which would give them work authorization and protection from deportation for a period of 10 years.
- A person holding ‘Conditional Permanent Residence’ status can apply for ‘Lawful permanent residence’
- Dreamers who will complete 5 years in lawful permanent residence states can apply for citizenship by naturalisation.
Route for DACA recipients is comparatively easier to DREAMers.
CONDITIONAL PERMANENT RESIDENCY
Upon fulfilling the requirement for Conditional permanent residency the alien would be granted conditional permanent residency status which would be valid for 10 years. He will be protected from deportation and will be allowed to work in the US.
- He must be continuously present in the US since January 01,2021.
- The alien must have entered the US on or before 18 years of age and has been in the US since then.
- Has not been involved in persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
- He must not be inadmissible on the following grounds namely; smuggling, student visa abuse, national security, practicing polygamist, Ineligible to citizenship and health related grounds.
- He has to go through necessary security and background checks.
- The alien would be ineligible for grant of status if he is previously being convicted of a felony offence or 3 misdemeanour offences.
- Graduated from High School or obtain a GED
LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENCE
After completing ‘Conditional permanent residency period’ the DREAMer can then apply for Lawful Permanent Residency by filling any one requirement from the following:
Graduated from an institute of higher education (college or university) or completed at least 2 years of bachelor’s degree or higher degree from the US or,
Served in the military service for at least two years with honourable discharge or, Able to demonstrate earned income for a period of at least 3 years and 75% of such period he must have employment authorization.
FUTURE OF AMERICAN DREAM AND PROMISE ACT
As of now this bill has been passed from the House of Representative and still needs to pass from the Senate. If it becomes law then at least some of the illegal immigrants get relief and can contribute to the economy to the fullest. President Biden earlier promised to reinstate the DACA program, these dreamers can apply under this program even if the bill does not become law.