DREAM Act: Senate immigration reform bill offers 'best' version yet
Senate's immigration reform bill includes a version of the DREAM Act that would make some young people eligible for green cards and US citizenship after five years. Immigration advocates hail the proposal.
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What’s gone? While 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.Skip to next paragraph
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This lifting of the age caps was a key DREAMer demand, Praeli says. “It is only logical that for someone who has been here since before the age of 16, but they are now 35 or 40, they have greater equities [in the US] than someone who is younger," she says. "It’s almost like logic came back to people: ‘Oh, yes, someone who has been ‘aged out’ is still a dreamer.' ”
The shift toward more generous proposals for DREAMers indicates that even opponents of the immigration reform drive are not bitterly opposed to helping young people brought to the US as children.
"They are the most sympathetic group of illegal aliens. That’s not spin, that’s correct," says Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, a low-immigration advocacy group. "That’s why there’s not much public opposition for the idea."
Even Mr. Krikorian, among the most hawkish analysts of immigration policy and a critic of the latest immigration reform drive, favors a narrowly tailored policy benefiting DREAMers that would lower the initial age of eligibility and bar parents of DREAMers from obtaining legal status, among other changes. The proposal includes other benefits to potential DREAMers not available in prior legislation: For one, young people 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. Previous DREAM bills not only offered no hope to those already deported, but also explicitly declined to shield from deportation potential DREAMers still in the US.
For another, the Senate bill would repeal the law that some states interpret as barring the undocumented from receiving in-state tuition rates at public universities, another novel development.
And then there is the fact that DREAMers' path to citizenship is easier than for others in the US illegally. Only DREAMers and longtime agricultural workers would be able to get on a route to US citizenship without waiting for certain border security metrics to be reached.
While the vast majority of illegal immigrants in America will have to pay as much as $1,500 apiece in fines, the DREAMers will avoid most of those charges.
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.
While Praeli is keen to see legislative language, the early response to the Senate draft bill from United We Dream’s supporters is upbeat. Even so, she says that backers are ready to fight for the bill all the way to Mr. Obama’s desk.
“People are saying: ‘We have fought for this, we have made this happen, we are going to fight like hell to protect it. No one better mess with this,’ ” she says.
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