Since DACA renewals have stopped, many have wondered what the next step is. For undocumented immigrants brought here when they were children, this could mean being sent back to countries they no longer have anything in relation with.
While many are left feeling helpless, sympathetic parties in Congress are trying to pass the DREAM Act.
What is the DREAM Act?
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a proposed piece of legislation that would let immigrant minors become residents. Once they are accepted under the DREAM Act, they would first be granted conditional resident status. After a 6-year period, accepted applicants could then apply for permanent resident status.
The first version of the DREAM Act was introduced in August of 2001 by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. Since then, the bill has passed in certain forms in both the House and the Senate. Neither legislative body can agree on one version, which has kept the DREAM Act from becoming law.
Qualifications for DREAMer Status
DREAMers (applicants of the DREAM Act) would have to meet certain criteria before they are protected by the DREAM Act.
To qualify for conditional status, applicants must prove that they have:
- Entered the U.S. before turning 16 years old
- Lived in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years
- Graduated high school in the U.S. or have received GED
- Passed a criminal background check
- Shown good moral character
To qualify for permanent residency, applicants must prove that they have:
- Either served in the U.S. military for 2 years or have attended a university or another higher education institution
- Passed additional criminal background checks
- Continued to show good moral character
DREAM Act vs. DACA
In 2012, President Barack Obama announced the DACA policy as a presidential memorandum. This essentially made certain tenets of the DREAM Act an executive order. DACA allowed for qualifying immigrants to get work permits for up to 2 years.
DACA helped possible DREAMers for the time. Yet, DACA came under fire from Republican politicians. Many Republicans thought that DACA was an overreach of executive powers. They believed the President was dictating immigration law. Instead of allowing Congress to handle the DREAM Act, President Obama essentially made core tenets of the DREAM Act law.
DACA’s memorandum was easily undone when President Trump retracted the memorandum. This left former recipients of DACA in a precarious position. There were few other provisions in place to help protect them.
Once DACA was rescinded, the responsibility to protect undocumented immigrant minors fell on the DREAM Act. Reintroduced in July, the DREAM Act is currently in debate as of this writing.
Will the DREAM Act pass?
This is difficult to say. President Trump’s unpredictable behavior, coupled with a Congress interested in strict immigration regulation, could present problems in the passage of the DREAM Act.
However, both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress are working together to push forward the DREAM Act. Republican Senator Susan Collins expressed support and believes there is “widespread bipartisan support” for the legislation.
In these uncertain times, it’s critical to stay informed. If you have any questions about DACA, the DREAM Act, or any other immigration law issues, contact the immigration attorneys at Salmon and Haas.