The DREAM Act or the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors was first introduced to the Senate floor in 2001, by Senators Dick Durbin and Orrin G. Hatch (Kim, 2012). The Act seeks to provide conditional permanent residency to hundreds of illegal immigrants who are of good moral conduct and who graduate annually from U.S schools and colleges (Motomura, 2014). The bill provides that such individuals must have lived continuously in U.S for at least five years prior to its enactment.
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A bill similar to the DREAM Act was first introduced by Representative Luis Gutierrez in April, 2001 named “Immigrant Children’s Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act of 2001”. This initial bill would have allowed the immigrants to apply against deportation as they applied for permanent residency if they arrived in U.S before 16 years, were less than 25 years, of good moral conduct, lived continuously in U.S for at least five years were enrolled in secondary/post-secondary or applied for a college (Ortiz, 2010).
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However, in May 2001, Luis Gutierrez’s bill was scrapped for its revised version, the Student Adjustment Act, 2001. The Student Adjustment Act 2001 proposed to lower eligibility to 21 years (Library of Congress, 2016). In August 2001, Senate Republican Congressman Orrin Hatch introduced a mirror image of Student Adjustment Act. The bill was subsequently given the name, DREAM Act. Since then, the DREAM Act has been introduced severally in the House and the Senate.
The bill was also introduced before other immigration-related bills such as the Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2006 and 2007. However, the bill failed and Richard Durbin made its passage a 2007 priority. In 2007, Durbin filed to replace the DREAM Act with the Department of Defense Authorization Bill of 2008 (Library of Congress, 2016). The bill had no age gaps and offered the misconception that it allowed for instate-tuition to its beneficiaries. An amendment in favor of rewritten DREAM Act was introduced by Durbin to the Defense Bill.
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In October 2007, Durbin with Senate cosponsors Charles Hagal and Richard Lugar introduced the DREAM Act as S.2205 but it failed. The bill was reintroduced in 2009 during the 111th congress by Senators Durbin, Reid, Lugar, Leahy, Martinez, Lieberman, Kennedy, Feingold and Representative Howard Berman. The bill was also considered in 2010, with new version that included changes that previously raised concerns (Library of Congress, 2016). In 2011, Senate majority leader Harry Reid re-introduced the bill and President Obama supported it as one of the efforts to reform the U.S immigration system. Consequently, the state of California enacted the California DREAM Act in same year. Obama enforced the bill in 2012, announcing that his administration would not deport any immigrants who observed the regulations in the DREAM Act.
Arguments for and against the DREAM Act
The DREAM Act has been projected to help reduce the federal deficits and increase government revenues for the next 10 years. According to (Coronel, 2013), it is projected that under the DREAM Act the government would reduce deficits by $1.4 billion over the period 2011-2020 as well as increasing revenues by $2.4 billion over ten years. It is also projected that revenues will increase by more than $5 billion in at least one of the ten consecutive years from 2021.
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Moreover, it has been pointed previously that under the DREAM Act, the U.S would be more competitive globally by allowing illegal immigrants to live legally and contribute to the economy of the country (Coronel, 2013). Also, the White House Director of Hispanic Media, Luis Miranda, points that the DREAM Act provides a rigorous process for vetting immigrants and only applies to illegal immigrants already in U.S. Therefore, system would not encourage more immigrants as it also creates a waiting period before the DREAM Act applicants can sponsor green cards for their relatives.
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However, it has been pointed that the DREAM Act serves to encourage and reward illegal immigration. According to (Motomura, 2014, p. 175-187), the DREAM Act acts as a source of importation of poverty, cheap labor, social and economic burdens and as a military recruitment tool. Moreover, the act is unfair to American-born and legal immigrant parents, who must pay full tuition for the children in schools and colleges. Most of the immigrants allowed in the act have built their identities in foreign countries, and this has been pointed as likely to cause massive fraud as witnessed in the 1986 Amnesty. The (American Immigration Council, 2016) also points that DREAM Act has faced criticisms about children of legal immigrants facing deportation. The Obama policy instituted in 2012 covers only people who arrived in U.S and their legal status expired before June 2012.