Senate Introduces Pathway to Citizenship for Dreamers, Potentially Altering a Generation

This week, the United States Senate introduced the Dream Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill, sponsored by Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, to create a pathway to citizenship for young people in America without lawful status.

The bill, if passed, would place young people – those who entered the United States prior to the age of 18 – into a conditional resident status for a period of several years.  Afterwards, they could apply for permanent resident status (a “green card”) and ultimately citizenship.  This would be a fundamental change to the immigration system, and change the lives of millions of young people in America.

In its current form, the bill requires that to receive conditional status, the applicant must, among other things: (1) not have been convicted of a crime for which a term of imprisonment was more than one year, or three convictions for an aggregate term of at least 90 days; (2) have been admitted into a post-secondary school, graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or be in a program pursuing a high school degree or GED; (3) have been in the United States for four years prior to enactment of the bill; and (4) not have been connected to security or terrorism issues, smuggling, student visa abuse, polygamy, child abduction, or unlawful voting.  Subsequently, to receive permanent status, the applicant must complete further education or military service, with exceptions for people with hardships.

Additionally, people who have obtained Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a program granting temporary work authorization for people who entered the U.S. at a young age, are automatically eligible for conditional status.  This would impact around 800,000 young people – and millions of family members – across the United States.

The bill appears to be even more important in light of recent reports that President Trump may be ending the DACA program.  In fact, Senator Graham indicated that the bill was a direct response to the possible termination of DACA, stating that these young people have “identified themselves and their legal standing is now in question.  It becomes an almost moral decision.”

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