Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
On October 23, 2003, the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16-3 vote passed S. 1545, the Bipartisan DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2003). The bill still has to be passed by the full Senate and a companion bill must also be passed by the full House. The recent vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, though, significantly increases the chance for the bill to be enacted into law, despite vociferous opposition from anti-immigration groups and unbalanced mainstream television programs, such as Lou Dobb’s Moneyline on CNN.
The DREAM Act would legalize the status of young immigrant students who have lived in the US for at least five years preceding the Act’s passage and who entered the US as children.
If the Senate bill becomes law, the DREAM Act would allow a non-citizen to either cancel removal proceedings or to adjust status to lawful permanent residence in the US. Essentially, the applicant will have to show that he or she has been physically present for a continuous period of not less than five years immediately preceding the date of the enactment of this Act and had not reached the age of sixteen years at the initial time of entry. Furthermore, the non-citizen must possess good moral character since the time of application and must not be inadmissible or deportable under certain grounds of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The non-citizen, at the time of application, must further show that he or she has been admitted to an institution of higher education, or has earned a high school diploma or obtained a general education development certificate.
If such a person meets the general eligibility criteria, he or she would be granted conditional residence status for the next six years. During those six years, this person would need to remove the conditions by either acquiring a degree from an institution of higher education or being a student in good standing for at least two years in a program leading to a bachelor’s degree or higher degree. The non-citizen can also remove the condition on residency by serving in the armed forces for at least two years and, if discharged, have received an honorable discharge.
Finally, if it becomes law, the DREAM Act would also remove one of the barriers that deserving children face by returning to the states the authority to determine who qualifies for in-state tuition.
The DREAM Act must be passed because it makes sense and is good public policy. In fact, it makes no sense creating an underclass of students in this country because of lack of status, which occurred due to no fault of their own. One cannot penalize children whose status has been violated or terminated because of their parents’ actions. These children are completely integrated into the American educational system and society, but because of their lack of status, they will not likely be hired by the best of US employers upon their graduation.
Let us hope that immigrant students will soon be able to realize the American dream through the DREAM Act.
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.