The DREAM Act, which stands for "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minos Act, proposes to grant conditional legal permanent resident status to some minor, undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications. Among other provisions, the DREAM Act would allow undocumented citizens to receive education, obtain educational financial aid, work, and join the military.
The DREAM Act has not yet been approved as a federal law. It was originally proposed in 2001, rejected in 2010, and reintroduced to the legislature in 2011. It is still currently under debate, as opponents feel this bill may support illegal immigration into the U.S. Despite the difficulty the federal government has had settling on provisions of the DREAM Act, several states have taken it on their own initiative to draft their own DREAM Acts. States with DREAM Acts include:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
While the federal DREAM Act is still under debate, many states, including California, has already passed their own version of the DREAM Act. The California DREAM Act was signed into law in October of 2011. It is similar to the federal version, but tends to focus more on educational provisions. For example, the California DREAM Act allows undocumented residents to apply for student financial aid. The primary purpose of this provision is to provide Cal Grants to students who qualify.
Eligibility requirements for the California DREAM Act include:
- The student came to the U.S. without a proper visa while under age 16
- The student has attended school on a regular basis and graduated from high school
- The student has demonstrates both “merit” and “need”
- The student meet requirements for GPA and in-state tuition applications
Thus, California’s DREAM Act allows persons to obtain financial assistance for education that they otherwise weren’t eligible for.
Both the federal DREAM Act, as well as the state DREAM Acts, including the California DREAM Act, have received a lot of criticism. In particular, opponents of the California DREAM Act argue that the law will create a financial burden on the state, since it grants tuition breaks for individuals who were not eligible before.
There is also debate as to whether the California DREAM Act will increase the amount of illegal immigration into the state. Opponents of the Act suspect that more illegal immigrants will seek to relocate to California to take advantage of the law’s benefits.
On the other hand, supporters of the law argue that it will be ultimately beneficial to the state, as more residents will be educated and employable in the higher levels of the workforce.
The DREAM Act proposes major changes to immigration law and policies. If you have any questions about the federal DREAM Act, or about the California DREAM Act, you may wish to contact an immigration lawyer for advice. Your attorney will be able to tell you about the current state of the Act, of explain how the law works, and can help represent you in court if you feel that you have been discriminated against.