The Obama Administration has signaled its support of legislation (see PDF) that would carve a path to citizenship for youth and young adults who were brought to the United States illegally.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010, also known as the DREAM Act, has become a hot topic in the national immigration debate. This particular legislation focuses on young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, yet have developed a productive life afterward.
The criteria outlined in the DREAM Act are specific for those seeking a pathway to citizenship. First, nonimmigrant status would be given to those who came to the U.S. before age 16, are currently under age 30, and have graduated from high school or obtained a GED certificate. They would also need to have been in the U.S. for five years prior to the DREAM Act becoming law, be in good moral standing, and not have committed any deportable offenses.
Applicants would be eligible to apply for permanent resident status after completing either two years of college or military service. Estimates show that up to 300,000 people would be eligible for some form of change in their citizenship status under the bill as it stands.
“The young people who would be eligible for relief under the DREAM Act are prime examples of the need for comprehensive immigration reform that is based on requiring accountability and responsibility from all – the government, employers, and those who have entered the country illegally,” a statement from the Office of Management and Budget read.
“Young people who have spent much of their lives in the United States and want to improve their lives and their [n]ation by pursuing higher education or defending the United States as members of the Armed Forces should be given this opportunity to earn legal status,” it added.
The DREAM Act is important to Democrats, Latino activists, and others who support a broader overhaul of the American immigration system. GOP opponents in Congress call it “mass amnesty” for the millions who may be eligible to apply for citizenship. They cite increased chances for terrorists and criminals to gain entry to the country.
The House and Senate are set to vote on the DREAM Act on Wednesday.