by Moses Apsan, Esq.
New York - June 7, 2010 -- When Senator Harry Reid (D_Nevada) changed his focus to energy reform instead of immigration, he created a specter of doom for comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. This news heralds a major disappointment for millions of people who have been pursuing immigration reform for 2010. Reid, still not giving up on immigration reform, has reportedly changed his strategy, and instead of attempting to have a comprehensive reform this year, he is focusing on a number of proposals that have been floating around which may be easier for him to garner bipartisan support. Although there are many different proposals regarding immigration reform, none of them cry out more for immediate resolution than the Dream Act.
More than three million students graduate from U.S. high schools every year and each year 70,000 of these graduates are undocumented students with basically no hope of pursuing their dreams to be a legitimate part of American society. These young people unfortunately, begin their life "behind the 8 ball." They do not get the opportunities most kids have as an inherent part of being a U.S. citizen. Attached to them is the notorious title of, an illegal immigrant. Most of these youths have lived in the United States for a majority of their lives and, now upon graduation from High School, they find that they cannot go to college, get decent work or even drive a car. They live in fear that their status will be discovered and they will be deported. In essence they are relegated to a sub-class, similar to the untouchables in India's past. Those living in Arizona must, by now be in a panic state.
Illegal students can only obtain permanent status through their parents; there is no independent method to accomplish legal residency for them. And if the parents are illegal, they have absolutely no way to "stand in line" and wait for legal documentation, as repeatedly and incorrectly suggested by those anti-immigration reform proponents . If they return to their country of birth, it would not guarantee a path to documented status. On the contrary, they probably could never be able to legally return.
Even so, these children are innocent and not to blame. They came along with their parents, most of them between 2 to 10 years of age. These children studied in the U.S., made American friends, and evolved into Americans. Some did not even have the knowledge about their legal status until they attempted to enter college and found out the hard way that they are illegal and have no future in the U.S.
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To the rescue came the Dream Act. A bill, that could resolve their dilemma, but has languished in Congress for nearly a decade, despite lobbying by the students, churches and immigrant advocacy organizations. The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation pioneered by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL] that can solve this injustice in our society. Under the though provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youths would be eligible for a 6 year long conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. Conditional Permanent Residency is similar to Legal Permanent Residency in that you would be able to live legally in the U.S. , go to college, work, drive and travel. But it lasts for only 6 years. Students would be eligible for student loans and federal work-study programs, but will not be eligible for federal financial aid such as Pell Grants.
Who would Qualify?
The following is a list of specific requirements one would need in order to qualify for the current version of the DREAM Act.
• Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
• Have proof of residence in the United States for a least five consecutive years since their date of arrival,
compliance with Selective Service.
• Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment.
• Have graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED.
• Be of "good moral character"
How it works.
• "conditional" status would be granted during the first six years.
• the youth would be required to graduate from a two-year community college or complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or serve two years in the U.S. military.
• After the six year period, an youth who met at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status.
• During this six year conditional period, these students would not be eligible for federal higher education grants such as Pell grants, but they would be able to apply for student loans and work study.
• If the youth did not meet the educational or military service requirement within the six year time period, their temporary residence would be revoked and they would be removable (deportable).
• They must not commit any crimes other than those considered non-drug related misdemeanors. Being convicted of a felony or drug-related infraction would automatically remove the six year temporary residence status and they would be subject to deportation.
• If the youth met all of these requirements at the completion of the 6-year conditional period, they would be granted permanent residency, and eventually will be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
There comes a time that we, as American, must do what is just and right under God and our Constitution. If Comprehensive Immigration Reform cannot be approved quickly, then we must become practical and take smaller steps to accomplish our ultimate goal of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. There are many smaller bills that could help ito stop the hemorrhaging felt by our immigrant society; their friends and famiies. Not only should the Dream Act be passed quickly, but so to should AgJobs, which is intended for legalization of farm workers, something desperately needed by our country, as well as some form of national ID card that would permit undocumented person to obtain a drivers licenses, which is patenely needed for the overall safety and security of our country. Let's hope that congress can get its head out of the sand and see the problems delay in resolving the immigration dilemma is causing to our country, the economy and all Americans.