The bipartisan Senate “Gang of 8” that has been working on comprehensive immigration reform legislation released the text of a bill that contains a very favorable version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a top AACC legislative priority since 2001. The DREAM Act provisions, found in section 2103 of the Senate bill, would establish a path to citizenship for eligible people that is faster than under previous versions of the legislation. DREAM Act students would be able to obtain lawful permanent status after 5 years in a new probationary status established by the legislation (compared to 10 years for others) and also be immediately eligible to apply for full citizenship at that time. DREAM Act students would also be exempt from fines that apply to others seeking legal status.
As in previous versions of the legislation, to be eligible for a green card, DREAM Act students must have attained a degree, have completed 2 years toward a bachelor’s degree, or completed 4 years of military service. To qualify as a DREAM Act student, a person must have originally entered the country before December 31, 2011, and have been younger than 16 at the time. Previous versions of the DREAM Act required an eligible person to have been in the country for 5 years at the time of enactment. Significantly, the legislation has no age limit on qualifying for DREAM status. The legislation also permits the secretary of Homeland Security to adopt streamlined application procedures for students who were granted status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative.
The legislation also repeals a ban on in-state tuition for undocumented students that has been in place since 1996, although a growing number of states have passed laws or policies granting these students in-state tuition. This provision was quickly dropped from previous versions of the legislation due to political opposition, so its appearance in this bill is a positive development.