Dream Act Provides a Path Forward for Immigrant Youth

Washington, D.C.—Today Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017. The bill would provide immigrant youth who entered the United States as children—also known as “Dreamers”—with an opportunity to earn their citizenship. The introduction of the Dream Act comes at a critical time as undocumented youth and their families continue to face significant threats, including a recent request from Texas Attorney General Paxton and ten other state AGs calling on the Trump Administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by September 5, 2017. The DACA program has provided relief from deportation and work authorization to over 800,000 youth

The Dream Act of 2017 represents a permanent solution for DACA youth and reflects the diverse experiences of the undocumented youth population. To qualify for the bill and obtain conditional resident status, individuals must have been continuously present in the country for at least four years prior to the date of the bill’s enactment and must meet certain educational and criminal background requirements. After receiving conditional residence status, applicants would have eight years to qualify for lawful permanent resident status by completing two years of higher education or military service or three years of employment.

“We’re thrilled to endorse this important legislation that provides a permanent solution for DACA youth and other undocumented young people, by giving them an opportunity to achieve their full potential and become full citizens in the country they call home,” said Olivia Golden, CLASP Executive Director. “We’re also pleased that this bill responds to the complex realities of undocumented youth—the majority of whom live in low-income families—and recognizes the broad range of talents and contributions they bring to our nation.”

The Dream Act of 2017 ensures protections for DACA youth and also offers a solution for other undocumented young people, including those who may have been left out of DACA or previous legislative proposals. For example, for the first time the bill offers an employment option to qualify for lawful permanent resident status and also provides a hardship exemption for full-time caregivers of minor children. Such provisions ensure that immigrant youth who must work to help support their families, provide care for their children, or choose to pursue a career that does not require a four-year degree will still be able to get on a path to citizenship.

The bill also helps make higher education more affordable for low-income undocumented students by making them eligible for federal financial assistance and making it easier for states to offer them in-state tuition. By enabling young people to better pursue their education and career goals, the bill also serves as a powerful anti-poverty tool. In fact, research shows that the DACA program significantly improved economic outcomes for undocumented immigrant youth, the benefits of which extend to their families and communities as well as throughout the entire economy.

“We applaud Senators Durbin and Graham for introducing this bill at such a critical time when immigrant youth and their families are facing significant threats. CLASP looks forward to working with our partners in the youth, anti-poverty, and postsecondary education communities to maintain the DACA program, advocate for passage of the Dream Act and continue to fight back against immigration enforcement policies that harm our immigrant community and undermine our shared national interest,” added Golden.