24 Mar The dream and promise act of 2021: who qualifies?
In a previous article, I discussed how Pres. Biden and the Democrats introduced the “U.S. CITIZENSHIP ACT” of 2021. It was a massive bill, covering a variety of immigration issues and reforms, including a pathway to U.S. citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented noncitizens now in the U.S.
Unfortunately, that bill has stalled in Congress, and many commentators believe it will be an uphill battle to have such a massive bill passed in Congress. Meanwhile, the Democrats are introducing additional immigration bills in piecemeal fashion, so that rather than having one comprehensive bill covering comprehensive immigration reform, they are breaking it down into several separate bills, one of which is granting legalization to DACA recipients and other “Dreamers,” (who are called that based on a bill introduced many years ago called the “Dream Act,” which stood for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act.
Basically, the Dream and Promise Act would provide a 10 year pathway to legalization and citizenship. Initially, Dreamers would be granted “conditional permanent resident status” for 10 years. To be eligible, the person:
- must have been physically present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. Even though this bill has not yet passed, I would strongly recommend that people already gather documents to show they were in the U.S. before New Year’s.
- Were 18 years old or younger when they originally entered the U.S. This expands the eligibility requirement for DACA, where the person had to have entered the U.S. before their 16th
- Is not inadmissible or ineligible to enter the U.S. on the following grounds: criminal, security and terrorism, smuggling, student visa abuse, unlawful voting, and other reasons.
- Have not been convicted of any offense punishable by a term of imprisonment for more than one year, committed three or more offenses the total amount of imprisonment was 90 days or more, crimes of domestic violence. If a person has such criminal issues, they should definitely see an attorney before applying, so they don’t find themselves in removal proceedings.
- Graduated from high school, obtained a General Educational Development (GED), or are in a program assisting students in obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
- Pass security and law enforcement background checks and register for selective service if required. This is generally for males between the age of 18 and 25.
In order to obtain full lawful permanent resident status, the Dreamer must:
- obtain a degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or complete at least two years in a Bachelor’s degree program or a technical program. Or, has two years of military service with an honorable discharge. Therefore, Congress wants young people to become educated and graduate. And that’s a good thing because so many people come to the U.S. because of the educational opportunities. Now, it would seem it’s a requirement to get a green card.
- Be employed for at least three years, and at least 75% of that time should have been working with employment authorization.
This bill would also grant in-state tuition to undocumented students, give them access to federal financial aid, and if the Dreamer had been deported during the Trump administration, they could apply from abroad.
I think this bill will have a good chance of passing. Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed sympathy and compassion for these Dreamers. I also think this bill addresses most of the concerns, criticisms, and arguments Republicans may have. The requirements are, the person must be law-abiding, educated, and hard-working. Therefore, Republicans cannot argue that somehow this is offering legalization to criminals or undesirables. We are offering a pathway to citizenship to young people who would be able to work for many years and pay taxes.
Even though comprehensive immigration reform may not pass right now, let us at least get whatever bills can be passed, and then move further, rather than having an all-or-nothing attitude. Maybe once the Dreamers are legalized and things are going well, legalization can be expanded to the parents of U.S. citizens as was tried under DAPA.
But I believe this is a positive sign and is a developing story. We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments in immigration reform, because I know so many of you out there are looking for a way to legalize.
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