Will Durbin’s DREAM (Act) Ever Come True?
Published: March 30, 2009

There are a multitude of perspectives in the debate about how our country should fix the problem of having 10 to 20 million undocumented individuals residing here. Days ago, Senator Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois once again has introduced legislation before the U.S. Senate to establish a “path to citizenship” for millions of undocumented foreign nationals who arrived in the U.S. as children. The bi-partisan team joining Durbin in presenting this proposal, known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), includes Senator Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana in the U.S. Senate. In the U.S. House of Representatives, a parallel version of the bill – known as the American Dream Act, was introduced by a separate bi-partisan team, which includes two Democrats and one Republican.

If this sort of legislative proposal sounds familiar, that’s because there have already been several stabs at it over the years, but with no success at passage. Whether or not Durbin’s “DREAM” stands a chance in today’s economic and political climate remains to be seen — although with President Obama likely taking a role in this bi-partisan play, anything can happen.

Some highlights of the legislative proposal include:

  • Allowing certain, otherwise law abiding, immigrant students who are now under the age of 35 and qho arrived in the U.S. while under the age of 16 and at least 5 years before enactment of legislation, to obtain conditional permanent resident status as long as they gain acceptance to college, graduate from high school in the U.S. or obtain a GED.
  • The period of conditional residence, which allows applicants to work, drive, attend school and take short trips abroad, will be generally be limited to 6 years. Thereafter, applicants can seek to convert their status to unrestricted lawful permanent residence if they maintain good moral character, avoid extended trips outside the U.S., and graduate from a two-year college, study at least two years toward a Bachelors or higher degree, or serve in the U.S. armed forces for two years.
  • Allowing for conditional resident eligibility for federal work study and student loans, but not federal financial aid grants.
  • Reversing federal penalties against states, like Illinois , which allow certain undocumented students in-state tuition benefits for higher education.
  • Allowing time accumulated in conditional resident status to be counted toward U.S. citizenship eligibility.

The DREAM Act brings to light a sensitive sub-issue in the debate regarding what to do with our nation’s undocumented population as a whole, i.e. how to approach the peculiar circumstances of millions of young adults who generally were brought to the U.S. as innocent children and not by their own choosing, and have known no home country other than the U.S. For sure, it will be a lively, emotional debate, and a prelude to the larger discussion about the merits of a path to citizenship for the undocumented population at large.

Copyright © 2009, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois