Hope for the Young Undocumented DREAMers in America?
With the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program being wound down by March 2018, the U.S. Congress is under increased pressure to pass federal legislations to safeguard the interests of DACA recipients– the DREAMers – who could be subject to deportation upon expiration of their DACA benefits. Under DACA, certain DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. as children have been granted temporary work permits and protection from deportation. There are about 800,000 such recipients.
There are a few pending bills in Congress affording protection to the DREAMers that could gain traction in light of the rescission of DACA. These bills are briefly discussed below.
The DREAM Act
The first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in 2001, as a result of which young undocumented immigrants have since been called DREAMers. Several versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced since 2001, with the most recent version providing current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED (General Education Development) recipients a 13-year path to U.S. citizenship through college, work, or the armed services. This pathway involves three steps: first, a conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for up to eight years; followed by a 5-year lawful permanent resident (LPR) status; and lastly, U.S. citizenship.
The Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act
The RAC Act is similar to the DREAM Act as it provides a path to U.S. citizenship as well, but covers fewer young undocumented immigrants as compared to the DREAM Act.
The Bridge Act
The Bridge (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy) Act allows current DACA recipients and those eligible for DACA to stay in the U.S. for up to three years after the expiration of their DACA permits. This Act does not provide any path to U.S. citizenship; it is more of a temporary fix.
The American Hope Act
The American Hope Act allows DACA recipients and certain other undocumented children who entered the U.S. before their 18th birthday to apply for conditional permanent resident status and eventually (after five years), U.S. citizenship.
There’s a lot of support from Americans across the board, immigration activists and lawmakers alike for the DREAMers who came to the U.S. without any fault of theirs, and for most of whom, U.S. is the only country they know! The Republican and Democratic party leaders and lawmakers have signaled their willingness and commitment to take up the DREAMers’ cause. As of now, there are heartening signs of bipartisan cooperation, but it remains to be seen as to which of the proposed legislations, if any, will see the light of day.
Zeenat Phophalia, Esq., Senior Associate