Ten years have passed since this first introduction and the Dream Act has yet to be passed. The purpose of the bill is to help undocumented students, brought to the United States at a young age by their parents, pursue higher education. Students would not only receive financial support for university education, the DREAM Act would also allow them to obtain legal status in the United States.
It is the legalizing of undocumented immigrants which frightens those who have voted against it. After several re-introductions and failed attempts of passing the bill, the DREAM Act has brought forth more supporters. Objections from the opposition, however, have impeded progression of the bill. What opposers fail to comprehend is that the Dream Act does not automatically grant citizenship to all undocumented students. In order for students to benefit from the Dream Act, they must fulfill explicit requirements.
Some of these are:
- Must have entered the United States before 16th birthday
- Must be in the country five consecutive years prior to the bill passing
- Must have graduated high school, have a GED, or be currently enrolled in college, trade school or other institution of higher education
- Must be between the ages of 12 and 35
- Must have good moral standing (no previous or current convictions)
Few adjustments have been made to the Dream Act since its first appearance as a bill. On December 2010, a group of students dressed in graduation caps and gowns gathered in Washington D.C. for the final resolution of the Dream Act in the Senate. After the deciding vote of Senate, which declined the bill, many students returned home heartbroken and feeling defeated. The immediate re-introduction of the Dream Act to the Senate in May 2011 was a surprise to many. The bill was presented by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois and by Representative Howard L. Berman from California five months after the previous rejection.
With each re-introduction of the bill, the number of supporters has continued to increase. If the Dream Act were to be approved this time around, the results would be highly beneficial to the United States, especially during this difficult time period of economic crisis which the country is struggling to overcome. The bill would grant students six years to complete either two years of college or military service before granting them permanent residence. Many components of the initial Dream Act originally submitted in June in 2001 have changed, but the principal goal of the act continues at the center of the argument.
Since the re-introduction of the bill to Senate a few states have taken action into their own hands and have supported the Dream Act at the local level. In California the Dream Act was proposed at the state level as Bills 130 and 131. Both of these bills called for financial support for undocumented students. AB 130 targeted financial support through private scholarships while AB131 sought to obtain publicly funded financial aid. The first part of the California Dream Act was passed on July 25 2011 and will be effective January 2012. The second part, AB131 was signed and passed a few months after in October 2011. The passing of the California Dream Act allows undocumented students to receive both private and public financial aid, but it does not provide a path towards citizenship or give access to federal financial aid. What is most important about the passing of AB130 and 131 is that it opens the door for more opportunities for undocumented students. The Los Angeles Times stated that “Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, author of the private financial aid measure, described it as an important but incremental step toward expanding opportunities for deserving students who were brought to the U.S. illegally through no choice of their own.” Similarly, in the state of Illinois a bill which created a Dream Act fund was passed by Governor Pat Quinn in August 2011. This bill allows for the creation of a privately funded account which will hold donations allocated for scholarships and grants. The passing of both the California Dream Act and the Illinois Dream Act are stepping stones toward the progression of the passing of the Dream Act.
Today the federal Dream Act continues to be reviewed. If the bill were to pass, undocumented students would be able to remain in the United States temporarily for six years provided they follow the guidelines set for them. As senator Durbin stated in the re-introduction to the Dream Act: “This is not just a piece of legislation, this is a matter of justice... all they are asking for is to serve the nation.”
For more information on the Dream Act or how to support this bill visit the following links: