Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daring to DREAM

Rumor has it that the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, may soon be considered by the full House and Senate. The DREAM Act offers U.S. high school graduates who were brought unlawfully to this country at a very young age (some as infants), through no fault of their own, a chance to regularize their status.

For the most part, those who would benefit from the DREAM Act have grown up here and know only the United States as their home. These students and youth can now be detained in federal immigrant detention centers and deported to a country they have never known. Currently, they have no legal means to adjust their status in the U.S.

A movement seems to be growing for a vote on the DREAM Act during the lame so-called “lame duck session” of Congress. Passage of the DREAM Act would give these young people an opportunity to serve our country and earn a pathway to citizenship through higher education or military service.

In broad terms, the DREAM Act would allow unauthorized aliens to become conditional legal permanent residents if they have met certain conditions. To qualify, an unauthorized immigrant must: (1) have entered the United States before the age of 16 and have not yet reached the age of 35; (2) been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than five years preceding the date of enactment; (3) earned a high school diploma or its equivalent or have been admitted to college; (4) been a person of good moral character; (5) have not committed certain crimes; (6) not pose a danger to national security; and (7) have never been under a final order of exclusion.

In order to have the conditional basis of their legal permanent resident status lifted, students will have to complete one of the following requirements within six years of being granted conditional status: (1) earn a two year degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or finish at least two years of a bachelor’s degree program; or (2) serve in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years, and, if discharged, receive an honorable discharge.

Given the pre-requisites to obtain a higher education, a second major provision allowing states to offer in-state tuition to these students has been part of the bill in the past.

The DREAM Act would offer hope and a brighter future to those willing to work for it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking dioceses and parishes to lift up the theme of immigration in support of the DREAM Act in the next three weeks through pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts, prayer vigils and, most of all, encouraging people to take action by sending electronic letters to their members of Congress. They may also set up visits with them during the Thanksgiving recess (Nov. 22-26).

Go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org for information and to take action.

The North American Integration and Development Center (NAID) at UCLA also has developed an interesting analysis about the economic potential of DREAM Act beneficiaries.

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