DREAMers Celebrate Over What New Reform Bill Offers

The Senate immigration reformers commonly referred to as the “Gang of Eight” have filed bipartisan legislation that would put so-called DREAMers on a more generous fast-track to citizenship than any prior legislation.

An estimated 2 million such young people have been waiting for such a bill to be passed that would finally grant them legal status in the United States. Activists are quick to point out that the possibility of such reform can be directly attributed to years of thoughtful, hard work from a well-organized movement of passionate individuals.

This particular Senate bill is much less restrictive in terms of its eligibility criteria and more generous in what it offers than were previous versions of the DREAM Act. The new “Gang of Eight bill would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to attain lawful permanent resident status more quickly, with a wait time of five years rather the 10 required of others. DREAMers would be eligible if they entered the country under the age of 16, earned a high school diploma or GED here, and attended college for at least two years or served in the military for at least four years.

Whereas previous DREAM bills restricted eligibility to those under the age of 30, the current Senate bill has no such cap. Past measures required five years of continuous residency in the US. The current measure stipulates only the time individuals must have been brought into the country and their age at that point.

Moreover, potential DREAMers who have been deported would be allowed to apply for inclusion in the policy if they would otherwise have been able to apply except for the fact of their deportation, a new avenue not available in prior legislation. Previous DREAM bills not only offered hope to those already deported, but also explicitly declined to shield from deportation potential DREAMers still in the US.

The Senate bill would also repeal the law that some states interpret as barring the undocumented from receiving in-state tuition rates at public universities, another novel development. Those who have already been offered temporary protection – some 450,000 as of the end of March – would be “grandfathered” in to provisional legal status.

Clearly, this is exciting news for undocumented young people brought to the US as children after decade-long wait for legislative relief. DREAM Act advocates view the latest version as by far the most generous version of the bill seen to date.

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