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DREAM Act

The Federal DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) was first introduced into Congress in 2001, and then in 2005, 2007, and 2009 but never made it to passage. The act was recently re-introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) on May 11, 2011 as S.729 and H.R. 1751. in a bi-partisan effort to address the particular situation of students who were brought to the U.S. as children through unauthorized means.  If passed, the act would provide a trajectory for undocumented youth to gain legalization and eventual citizenship.

General Requirements for the DREAM Act:

Under the new DREAM Act, unauthorized/undocumented individuals may qualify in part, by meeting the following requirements which have not been finalized by Congress:
*Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time the Law is enacted
*Must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16.
*Must have resided continuously in the United States for a least five (5) consecutive years since the date of their arrival
*Must have graduated from a U.S. High School, or obtained a General Education Diploma (GED)
*Must have “Good moral character”

If undocumented immigrant individuals are able to meet the aforementioned requirements they will be granted temporary residency status for a six-year time frame in which they must complete one of the two following conditions in order to gain permanent residency. Undocumented immigrant individuals must either complete two years of postsecondary education or serve in the military for two years. If they are able to complete either one of these two conditions within the six year time frame, and maintain a no criminal record, then he/she will be granted permanent residency status and eventually be able to apply for citizenship.

Who will benefit:

In the U.S. there are an estimated 1.8 million undocumented youths under the age of 18, about 15% of the entire undocumented population, with approximately 1.3 million having lived in the U.S. for 5 years or more and enrolled in K-12 schools in the year 2002. Each year, approximately 65,000 of these undocumented youth graduate from U.S. high schools. Out of those that do graduate each year, only 5% in general, attend college. In the end, approximately 3 out of every 5 undocumented students that do attend college will drop out without receiving any type of postsecondary degree because of the inability to pay for tuition or find stable employment in order to pay for their own college education.  Presently, undocumented students are ineligible to apply for any form of federal or state financial assistance, cannot sign for bank loans, and do not maintain a work permit.

If the DREAM Act were to be enacted, according to a 2006 analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, approximately: “360,000 undocumented high school graduates aged 18 to 24 would be eligible for conditional legal status. They estimate that of the 360,000 young people aged 18 to 24 immediately eligible for the conditional status under the DREAM Act; about 50,000 are currently enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States and thus are likely to be eligible for adjustment to permanent status. We also estimate that for a variety of reasons about 10 percent of conditional legal residents (or 31,000 persons) would not convert from conditional to permanent legal status. Thus, if the act would have been signed into law back in 2006, about 279,000 undocumented youth would be newly eligible persons for college enrollment or the US military.” This estimate, however, has conservatively increased over the past three years as more undocumented youth enter this age bracket. Moreover, what this shows is how many undocumented students are unable to attend college.

In addition, there are estimates “that about 715,000 unauthorized youth between ages 5 and 17 would become eligible for conditional and then permanent legal status under the proposed legislation sometime in the future.”

RESOURCES and FACTS:

The DREAM Act of 2007 FAQ
Organization: Immigration Policy Center
What is the DREAM Act? The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), first introduced in 2001, is bipartisan legislation that provides qualified undocumented students the opportunity to secure legal permanent status. Those eligible students would only receive permanent status if, over a number of years, they successfully complete several requirements outlined below.

Wasted Talent and Broken DREAMS: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students
By: Roberto G. Gonzales
Organization: Immigration Policy Center
The political debate over undocumented immigrants in the United States has largely ignored the plight of undocumented children. Yet children account for 1.8 million, or 15%, of the undocumented immigrants now living in this country. These children have, for the most part, grown up in the United States and received much of their primary and secondary educations here. But without a means to legalize their status, they are seldom able to go on to college and cannot work legally in this country. Moreover, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know. This wasted talent imposes economic and emotional costs on undocumented students themselves and on U.S. society as a whole. Denying undocumented students, most of whom are Hispanic, the opportunity to go to college and join the skilled workforce sends the wrong message to Hispanics about the value of a college education—and the value that U.S. society places on their education—at a time when raising the educational attainment of the Hispanic population is increasingly important to the nation’s economic health.

Dreams Deferred: The Costs of Ignoring Undocumented Students
Organization: Immigration Policy Center
The political debate over undocumented immigrants in the United States has largely ignored the plight of undocumented children who, for the most part, have grown up and received much of their primary and secondary education in this country. A new report from the Immigration Policy Center by Roberto Gonzales, Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students, makes clear that without a means to legalize their status, these children are seldom able to go on to college, cannot work legally in the United States, and therefore cannot put their educations to good use. Moreover, at any time, they can be deported to countries they barely know. This wasted talent imposes financial and emotional costs not only on undocumented students themselves, but on the U.S. economy and U.S. society as a whole.

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