by Moses Apsan, Esq.
WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee begins it’s hearings on a bill which offers a way for certain illegal aliens that entered the United States as minors to become Lawful Permanent residents and eventually American citizens.
The hearing follows on the footsteps of last week’s revelation by Pulitzer Prize journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter and senior contributing editor for The Huffington Post, that he is an illegal immigrant.
In last weeks Sunday's edition of the New York Times Magazine, online today, Vargas, told his story of a life as an undocumented immigrant In very quick time, Vargas has become somewhat of a poster child of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US who are desperate to resolve their immigration problem and want to see a Dream Act or some type of comprehensive immigration reform that would eventually make them U.S. citizens.
Vargas has been invited to the hearing but as of this writing it is not clear if he will attend.
Among those asked to attend are Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley.
President Barack Obama has been pushing for a reform of immigration laws so “they can address our economic and security needs while honoring our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”
But, since there is such vehement opposition to most any immigration reform, supporters are trying to convince the president to use more a “piece meal” strategy by using the president's executive power.
It was Senators Richard Durbin, Harry Reid, and Robert Menendez that re-introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Last fall, the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives, and garnered the support of a majority in the Senate, but was ultimately defeated when the Senate failed to invoke cloture and proceed to debate. The sponsors of the DREAM Act hope to build on last year’s momentum and continue to highlight the importance of fully utilizing the talent and potential of thousands of young people who are Americans in every way but their birth certificates.
Who would Qualify for the Dream Act?
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.
Although Obama has been a fervent DREAM Act supporter,he has done little to move the act forward and in fact, has taken a hard line on immigration violations by having Homeland Security work methodically to locate and deport immigration violators and has simultaneously shored up the Mexican border.