One of the many changes President Obama has promised America is immigration law reform. Many ideas have been discussed. One of them is the DREAM Act, sponsored by Senator Lugar from Indiana and Senator Durbin from Illinois, among others. The basic idea is to allow certain illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age and who have been educated in American schools to become permanent residents.
Under the DREAM Act, certain undocumented individuals could become legal residents. The first step in this process is for the individual to enroll in some type of higher education, such as a university, vocational school, or apprenticeship program. Another option is to enroll in the U.S. military. If certain requirements are met, this person may apply for conditional residency in the U.S. Upon receipt of an associates degree or a 2-year equivalent within six years of the initial petition, the conditional status can be changed and the individual can become a legal permanent resident of the United States.
To be eligible for permanent residency under the DREAM Act, the individual must have entered the United States before turning 16 years of age and must have been in the United States for at least five years without interruption. The individual must also demonstrate the ability to speak English.
Conditional residents under the DREAM Act will be eligible for private loans to fund their education, but will not be eligible for Pell grants. Under the DREAM Act, 65,000 students could become conditional residents each year, and eventually become permanent residents and citizens if they comply with current immigration rules and regulations.
One of the ideas behind the DREAM Act is to better utilize the taxpayer dollars that are being used to educate illegal immigrant youth in public schools across the country. If these youth are willing to continue their education through additional schooling or through the military, they would be allowed to become a legal part of our society without the fear of losing their families through deportation. In addition, the DREAM Act initially only benefits those who most likely were taken across the border by their parents through no decision of their own. Many of these individuals have spent more years illegally in the United States than in their home countries.
The DREAM Act could be merged with other legislation as part of comprehensive immigration law reform in 2010. If other ideas do not receive the necessary support from members of Congress, the DREAM Act could be enacted without additional reform measures. Either way, even the proposal of such legislation gives hope to many people now living in the United States who currently have no way of becoming a legal resident.