Could Dreamers have absolute legal protection more than ten years after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program began?
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That promise has been repeatedly broken, but new bipartisan legislation gives Dreamers renewed hope.
Earlier this month, Democratic Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina re-introduced the DREAM Act, which would provide undocumented people who came to the US as children a pathway to citizenship.
“We are encouraged by the bipartisan renewal effort by Sen. Durbin and Sen. Graham to legalize Dreamers,” Aliento founder Reyna Montoya said. “We understand the challenges that a DREAM Act is facing politically. Yet, it is crucial that we lift the voices of millions of Dreamers who know no country other than the USA and remain in legal limbo.”
In Dec. 2022, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis re-introduced the DREAM Act with an agreement that included a pathway to citizenship. However, the plan came with a trade-off: a one-year extension of Title 42, which allows the US government to turn away certain migrants at the border. Title 42 is the Trump-era health policy that allows border officials to deny migrants seeking asylum rapidly. This iteration of the DREAM Act failed to pass in Congress.
It has been over two decades since Sen. Durbin introduced the DREAM Act for the first time. The DACA program was born through an executive order from then-President Barack Obama as a result of Congress’ continuous failed attempts to pass the DREAM Act. Even when it came close to passing—like in 2021, when the House passed the DREAM Act—it has never made it through the Senate and onto the President’s desk.
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“After the DACA program closed the doors for first applicants, we have hundreds of thousands of young people stuck in legal limbo,” Montoya said. “As a DACA recipient who mentors and works alongside thousands of Dreamers who remain undocumented due to ongoing legal challenges of the DACA program, we want to call on Speaker McCarthy and Leader Schumer to work together so that after 23 years, Dreamers can finally have a pathway to citizenship.”
Here is what’s included in the newest version of the DREAM Act:
The proposal would allow migrant children to earn permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they meet the following criteria:
- Came to the US as children and are without lawful status
- Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
- Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military;
- Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee
- Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of US history
- Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes and do not pose a threat to our country