Published: December 1, 2010

If past experience is any guide to the future, the new and “improved” DREAM Act proposal now up for congressional consideration has little or no chance at passage. As the post 9/11 era has taught us, legislative proposals to excuse, in any way, immigration law violations generally face the bleakest of prospects. Proponents of the new DREAM act, or any other type of initiative to “go easy” on immigration violators, will surely be greeted with the same heated opposition previous versions of the proposal faced, even though the current bill comes with many more eligibility restrictions. A key vote on the new proposal will take place in the coming week.

First, a review. The DREAM in the DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. The essence of the DREAM Act, in all of its incarnations – including the present one, is to allow for a path to legal immigration status for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children, who have completed a high school education or equivalent and fulfill, prospectively, other conditions such as a minimum number of years of college or honorable service in the military. The enactment of a DREAM Act type proposal would benefit approximately 1-2 million undocumented young adults who were essentially raised as “Americans”, consider themselves “Americans” and have never really known any country other than the U.S.

To make the bill more attractive to the mainly Republican opposition in Congress, sponsors have added more stringent eligibility requirements, including:

  • Excluding from eligibility applicants with a criminal record of more than two misdemeanors convictions,
  • Requiring applicants to provide complete biometric information to Department of Homeland Security, and register with Selective Service (like all other US citizen and residents over the age of 18 years are required to do),
  • Requiring applicants to pay all taxes owed to date, 
  • Imposing a cutoff age of 30 years old as of the day of enactment, 
  • Extend the good moral character requirement to the day the applicant originally entered the US as opposed to the date of enactment, 
  • Requiring applicants to eventually demonstrate English language and Civics proficiency similar to current naturalization requirements, 
  • Imposing a 10 year conditional nonimmigrant status, followed by 3 years of lawful permanent resident status, before ultimately becoming eligible for naturalization,

Opponents of the DREAM Act say the enactment of this proposal would lead to all kinds of financial burdens on U.S. society. However, a common sense evaluation of the facts on the ground reveal otherwise. Most notably – with passage of a DREAM Act, we will have a population of young adults who will now be in a position to work legally in the U.S. and PAY TAXES. Remember, these young adults are not going anywhere – unless forced to by ICE agents, since the countries of their birth are practically different planets to them. Further, the costs of instituting and executing on a plan to deport this portion of our undocumented population is prohibitive, estimated to be in the area of $48 billion. Lastly, if forced to removal proceedings, a good portion, if not majority of this population would qualify for relief in court based on their lengthy residence in the US and hardships to US citizen and resident family members.

Of course the enactment of the DREAM Act, whatever the version, makes good sense, as does overall comprehensive immigration reform for the undocumented population at large. It’s just that good sense and politics do not always go together. We will know more next week.

Copyright © 2010, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois