Get To Know The Dream Act Of 2017 And How We Got To This Important Bill

credit: mitú / Wally Gobetz / Flickr

Now that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been rescinded with a six-month delay, focus will be shifting to Congress to come up with a solution to help DACA recipients achieve permanent legal status in the U.S. The thing is, there is already a solution that has been introduced: the Dream Act of 2017. All that needs to happen is for Congress to take action, bring the bill to a vote, then send it up to President Trump to sign it into law. It has been two months since the bill was introduced and it is still sitting in different committees in the House and Senate.

The Trump administration has announced that DACA is going the be rescinded and Congress has six months to act.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was tasked with the responsibility of breaking the news to the American public despite White House officials saying President Trump would be making the announcement. Then, after some widespread and serious criticism for the move, Trump tweeted that it is up to Congress to find a solution now that his administration ended the program.

Which shouldn’t be hard since both a House and Senate Dream Act bill were introduced in July 2017.

H.R.3440 and S.1615, also referred to as Dream Act of 2017, was introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. What the Dream Act of 2017 aims to do is create a pathway to citizenship to the almost 800,000 young people who are part of the DACA program, so long as they followed a list of requirements.

“There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. I’m proud to have presented the DREAM Act, along with my colleague, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, to give young men and women the opportunity to stay in this country, a country that they love,” Ros-Lehtinen says. “This bipartisan and bicameral legislation is just one of many initiatives in Congress aimed to protect our DREAMers from deportation and allow them the opportunity to continue living and working in the U.S. and, one day, become proud American citizens. I have been urging my colleagues in Congress to hold an up-or-down vote on any bill that protects these young people who actively contribute to our great nation.”

But, wasn’t there already a Dream Act that didn’t pass? What does this new one mean?

CREDIT: mitú

Good questions. Yes. The Dream Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, was first introduced in August 2001. It was supposed to legalize undocumented youth that had been brought to the U.S. when they were children and had grown up in the U.S. There wasn’t too much attention to that first draft and it wasn’t until 2010 that there was a big push to pass the Dream Act during President Obama’s time in office. The 2010 bill would have allowed the following:

“Authorizes: (1) the Secretary to cancel removal and grant conditional nonimmigrant status to an alien who has satisfied all the conditional status and certain permanent resident status requirements prior to enactment of this Act; and (2) an alien who has met the appropriate requirements during the entire period of conditional nonimmigrant status to apply for permanent resident status,” according to Congress.gov.

Despite a 2010 version of the Dream Act coming up for a vote in Congress, it failed to get enough votes to pass which ultimately prompted Obama to create DACA.

CREDIT: mitú

The Dream Act came up for a vote in 2010 and died in the Senate. The final vote tally was 55 yes (50 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 2 Independents), 41 no (36 Republicans and 5 Democrats), and 4 abstentions (1 Democrat and 3 Republicans). While the majority of the Senate voted for the Dream Act, they needed to reach 60 votes, or a two-thirds majority, to enact what is known as a cloture. If you can get two-thirds of the vote, you can then bring the bill to a vote on the floor bypassing any opposition’s attempt at a filibuster. A filibuster is when someone holds the floor (literally standing or sitting on the house floor), for as long as they can to prevent a vote on a bill. One example is Senator Ted Cruz’s failed attempt of a filibuster, where he read “Green Eggs and Ham” to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Now, don’t get the Dream Act and DACA confused because they are both very different in regards to what they actually do for those enrolled in either program.

CREDIT: mitú

DACA and the Dream Act are not the same thing. DACA is an executive order that was signed by President Obama that allowed for undocumented youth to apply for work permits and get driver’s licenses, and it protected them from deportation. It did not offer any pathway to citizenship and was temporary, requiring recipients to renew their DACA status every two years. The Dream Act would allow for undocumented youth to get work permits, driver’s licenses and spare them from deportation as well, but also opens up a pathway to citizenship.

The Dream Act would essentially give DACA recipients a roadmap to go from undocumented to citizens over a span of about 13 years.

“America has already invested in these young people by educating them in our schools, and they are now a vital part of our workforce. They contribute to our economic growth and our society as teachers, engineers, nurses and small business owners,” Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard said in a statement. “The DREAM Act would strengthen America by keeping these talented and ambitious young people in our country, rather than losing their talents to foreign competitors.”

First, the person wanting to benefit from the Dream Act of 2017 would have to transition to conditional permanent residency.

To do this, they would have to fit the following requirements:

  1. Be undocumented, on DACA or on temporary protected status. This includes people with removal orders or currently in removal proceedings.
  2. They had to have entered the U.S. before turning 18.
  3. They have to be physically in the U.S. consistently for 4 years before the Dream Act is enacted and have a continuous presence in the U.S. until they apply.
  4. They have to be admitted to a college, university or other institution of higher learning, earned a high school diploma or GED or be currently enrolled in a program to get a high school education or GED.
  5. They cannot have been convicted of certain criminal acts.
  6. They have to pass a medical examination as well as a background check.

“When Republicans say we should not legalize people until we start addressing the fundamentals of a broken immigration system, they’re not wrong,” Senator Lindsey Graham, co-sponsor of the Senate Dream Act bill, said in an interview with Fox and Friends.

After being on conditional permanent residency for 8 years, people can then apply for lawful permanent residency.

In order to qualify for lawful permanent residency, those applying would have to fit the following requirements:

  1. Have a record free of certain criminal convictions.
  2. They cannot have abandoned their residency in the U.S.
  3. They must have acquired a high education degree or completed two years of a bachelor’s degree, served at least two years in the military or been employed for a total of at least three years. There is a hardship possibility for those who can’t fulfill either of these.
  4. They must demonstrate the ability to read, write and speak in English while showing a working knowledge of U.S. civics.
  5. Pass a background check.

“Starting this countdown clock will require Congress to act fast to stop rolling mass deportations of hundreds of thousands of young people—students, teachers, doctors, engineers, first responders, servicemembers and more,” Senator Richard Durbin, one of the authors of the original Dream Act in 2001, said in a statement. “Families will be torn apart and America will lose many of our best and brightest unless Republicans join with Democrats to right this wrong immediately. I first introduced the Dream Act sixteen years ago to ensure these young people could stay here, in the only country they’ve ever known. Now Congress must act on this bipartisan bill, and act now. These families cannot wait.”

Then, after 5 years on lawful permanent residency, those in the system can then apply for full U.S. citizenship.

Overall, the Dream Act of 2017 will allow for people to get U.S. citizenship after a 13-year process. Yet, it would immediately take away the possibility of deportation as applicants begin the process to become U.S. citizens.

The Dream Act of 2017 would also ease the burden of people going to college.

It will do away with section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that dissuades states from giving undocumented immigrants in-state tuition or any higher education benefits.

Now, all we can do is wait and see if Congress will pass the Dream Act this time to save almost 800,000 people from deportation.

Trump made Sessions give the announcement that DACA was being rescinded and then threw the problem to Congress. It is up to them to fix the mess his administration has caused for DACA.


READ: The DREAM Act Has Been Reintroduced And It May Have A Winning Chance This Time

Share this story with all of your friends by tapping that little share button below!