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Dream Act of 2017 Introduced in the Senate

On July 20, 2017, two senators, one a democrat from Illinois (Durbin) and a Republican from South Carolina (Graham), introduced a new bill to protect and provide a path to citizenship to immigrants that were brought here as children. The legislation seeks to provide a path to citizenship and protection as a conditional resident for up to 8 years. Requirements for the Dream Act of 2017 are similar to that of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The bill outlines a three step process that would end with applicants applying for citizenship. The first step is Conditional Residency (CR) status. People who currently have DACA would automatically become Conditional Residents. This requirements for CR are more broad than that of DACA, making more people eligible for conditional residency. For example, under the proposed bill, there is no cap on age like that of DACA, which requires that an applicant be under the age of 30 to apply. The bill also proposes that a person be here before the age of 18, not 16 like DACA. This will increase the number of eligible immigrants for this program.

To obtain CR status, a person must have:

  • Entered the US prior to the age of 18
  • Entered and lived continuously in the U.S. for 4 years prior to the enactment of the Dream Act of 2017,
  • Not have been convicted of a crime where the term of imprisonment was more than a year (felony level) or 3 offenses where the combined sentence was more than 90 days,
  • Graduated high school or obtained a GED, been admitted to an institution of higher education (college/university/vocational), or currently enrolled in secondary school or program to obtain a GED

Once a person obtains CR either through their current DACA status or applying under the proposed law, they can maintain that status for up to 8 years and includes work authorization. The next step is to become a Legal Permanent Resident.

If a person with CR can demonstrate that they have completed two years of higher education or two years of military service, they can apply for Legal Permanent Residency (LPR) status. If a person doesn’t complete the two year requirement based on education or military service, they can still obtain LPR status if they can show that they have been working for at least three years as a CR.

If a person doesn’t meet the work, military, or education requirements to become an LPR, they can apply for a waiver if they can show that their deportation would result in extreme hardship to a spouse, parent, or child who is a United States citizen. Many women who are stay at home mothers for their children would need this waiver.

Once a person obtains and maintains LPR status for 5 years, they can apply for Naturalization to be come a U.S. citizen. The requirements to become a citizen through naturalization will not be changed by this proposed law.

A bill similar to this was proposed in 2001 and failed horribly in Congress. It was also a bill put forth with bipartisan support. The Dream Act of 2017 has an uphill battle but the important thing to remember is to be proactive and call your senators and representatives to let them know you support the young people that were brought here at no fault of their own.