DREAM ACT: An exceptional opportunity for undocumented immigrants.

How can I obtain my permanent residency in the U.S.? This is one of the most frequent questions undocumented immigrants ask themselves. Obtaining a Green Card is a process that involves several obstacles and is consequently complex.

Every year many people from all around the globe move to the U.S hoping to have a better life and access to more opportunities for their families and themselves. Over the past decades, the U.S. has received an unprecedented number of immigrants who have had a tremendous impact on American society. As a consequence, our country has benefited from immigration as immigrants are hard workers who have provided the U.S. with young labor which resulted in the past years in economic growth allowing the U.S. to remain competitive in an increasingly globalized world.

Acknowledging the foregoing, some Senators introduced a bill called the DREAM ACT. Generally speaking, this is a bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants that entered the U.S without documents. However, this bill is still under discussion and even if approved those eligible will have to meet certain requirements described below.

The DREAM ACT was first introduced in the Senate in August 2001 and after being subject to several changes was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate, most recently in May 2011. To be eligible under the DREAM ACT the following requirements must to be met: the person must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16; must have earned a high school diploma, GED, or have been accepted into a 2- or 4-year institution of higher education upon application; must have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years before the date of the legislation is enacted; and must display good moral character, generally meaning that the person has no criminal record.

In addition, this bill would repeal a measure that financially penalizes states for providing in-state tuition to their resident undocumented immigrants, allowing more states to make college more affordable. Furthermore, approval of the bill would make these immigrants eligible for federal loans and work study upon adjustment of their legal status, and it would provide a pathway to citizenship by giving them conditional legal status for 6 years. Legal status becomes permanent once the person acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or has completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree in the United States or the person served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.

However, this proposal has faced criticism and its opponents have pressed to introduce amendments to make it more difficult for people to apply for benefits under the DREAM ACT. Originally, the DREAM ACT would have immediately granted legal status to those who met the bill's requirements but the current version of the bill contains more limitations. For example, to apply under the DREAM ACT a person has to be 29 years old or under and needs to have arrived in the U.S. at age 15 or under. DREAM ACT individuals would have limited ability to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship. Further, it does not repeal the ban on in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, and it does not grant legal immigrant status to anyone for at least two 2 years.

The DREAM ACT would be a necessary step forward to fix our broken immigration laws. Its enactment would make the system fairer and would allow the U.S. to benefit from the contributions that educated and law-abiding immigrants can make to this society.

Please contact your representative to ask them to support the DREAM ACT.