What You Need to Know About the DREAM Act

What You Need to Know About the DREAM Act

Connie Kaplan
Connie Kaplan

Did you know 65,000 undocumented students graduate every year in the United States, but their legal status poses a threat to their future? They face several challenges and struggle to meet the ever-evolving laws for immigrants looking to further their education. With uncontrolled media and sensationalism, you may be misinformed about your standing. You don’t have to let that get in the way. Here’s what you need to know about the DREAM Act.  

What is the DREAM Act? 

The DREAM Act is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. It is a process designed for undocumented immigrant minors in the United States who’ve lived most of their lives here to apply for conditional residency or legal status. If high-achieving students meet the qualifications, a permanent residency is also possible. This bill makes sure the best and brightest of immigrant students have the opportunity to prosper and give back to the communities they belong to.

The act provides relief to only some immigrants who prove good moral character, join the military, complete high school, etc. The benefits of the DREAM Act cannot be transferred to distant family. So the undocumented students who received legal status cannot adjust the status of their family, even their parents. If their parents entered without an inspection, they can be barred from the country for 10 years.

Who are the DREAMers?

The DREAMers are the undocumented children who came into the country when they were young and went to school. A DREAMer student is one young undocumented immigrant that pursues higher education within the country and identifies as an American. It also has a double entendre, a play on word about the hopes and dreams of the undocumented child for a greater future in the United States.

There is an age limit to the student who wants to apply for the DREAM Act benefits. Minors who entered the United States at 15 years or under and up to the age of 29 can apply if they were living in the country for over five years when the act was passed. So the students are most likely to benefit are those in elementary or secondary school.

Is it a law?

Although Congress has introduced many versions of this bill since the year 2001, it has never been passed. It even had a big push in 2010 to no avail. What this means is that it’s not a federal law, yet. The DREAM Act can pave the way for legal status for thousands of students if it passes. But, at least 20 states have passed their own version of the DREAM Act so far. These states give you benefits such as scholarships, financial aid, etc. that are not otherwise allowed for undocumented students.

Although undocumented children in the United States complete school and want to attend college, only 5-10 percent do it. It’s not the lack of desire that holds them back. It is the lack of legal status and affordability that stands in the way for the hopeful undocumented youth in the country. Colleges are affordable with in-state tuition and financial aid, but only California, New Mexico, Washington, and Texas allow DREAMers to apply for it.

The Eligibility Criteria

Since this act is meant for high-achieving students, students with a bad track record may find the application difficult. In fact, students with a history of crime, security risk, or are removable on some grounds do not qualify for the DREAM Act. Students with criminal records are not safe from deportation. There are several repercussions for students such as fines and a 5-year prison sentence who attempt to falsify their credibility on the applications. Those convicted of a crime are not eligible for the benefits of DREAM Act.

For eligibility, the young student must prove good moral conduct and other criteria. Eligible students whose DREAM Act application is in the process will be safe from deportation or removal. Criminal background checks by Immigration Services will be thorough to detect any attempt of “marriage fraud.” If proved, it will not show “good” moral character and the student will be termed as ineligible for the DREAM Act.

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