Lawmakers Just Introduced a Dream Act Bill. What Does It Mean for You?

By Greisa Martinez, United We Dream Advocacy Director

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced(1) a bipartisan bill called the Dream Act of 2017. A bill that, if passed, would offer a route to permanent legal status for millions of undocumented immigrant youth. The bill comes as ten anti-immigrant Attorneys General sent(2) a letter to Donald Trump threatening to sue if he doesn’t end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by September 5, 2017 — a program that has protected nearly 800,000 young people like me from deportation.

Remember, Dream Act or not, we must continue to protect DACA and TPS.

Here are 4 key things that you should know about the bill and the fight ahead.

1. The strongest version of the Dream Act.

Previous versions of this bill required that immigrant youth either joined the military or finished at least two years of higher education. The new version of the Dream Act, expands eligibility to new categories which includes creating a route to citizenship through employment as well as providing hardship exception for full-time caregivers of minor children.

In addition, this new bill raises the age of entry requirement to 18 years of age. Meaning that to qualify you must have entered the U.S. before your 18th birthday. Previous versions limited this age to 16 years of age.

2. Recipients of DACA would receive immediate protection under this bill.

If this bill were to pass, the legal status of DACA recipients would change from DACA to what is referred to as Conditional Permanent Residency or CPR. Those who have not been able to apply for DACA will need to apply for CPR status and pay a ‘reasonable application fee’.

Conditional Permanent Residency status would last for 8 years and would come with work authorization. After maintaining CPR status for 8 years, an applicant can then apply for Legal Permanent Residency or LPR status by one of four ways:

  1. Work track: Demonstrates employment over a total period of 3 years
  2. Higher education: Completes at least 2 years of higher education.
  3. Military service: Completes at least 2 years of military service or receive an honorable discharge.
  4. Waiver: Receiving a “hardship waiver” that exempts an applicant from having to follow the tracks outlined above.

After maintaining Legal Permanent Residency status for five years, the applicant will be able to apply for citizenship.

3. We must continue to protect the DACA program.

Protecting all immigrants from deportation is the most important thing for us. The fact remains that all three bodies of government remain controlled by Republican politicians. Donald Trump and far-right Republicans have already hinted(3) that they will not support the Dream Act, bill without further enforcement.

Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of our communities and continue fighting like hell to protect the DACA Program, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, and the entire immigrant community.

4. Things you must do to take collective action and show our power.

While there is still much that is unknown about this bill, one thing remains certain: we have been able to win when enough of us take action together. Here are four things you can do right now to help protect DACA:

  1. Make Noise: Call your Attorney General and ask them to publicly support the DACA program. You can connect to your Attorney General by calling 1–832–610–3896.
  2. Speak Out: The only reason we won DACA in the first place was because thousands of us courageously spoke out and shared our story. We must continue doing this to protect it. Share why DACA is important to you, how has it helped you, why you support it. Do it through a tweet or an instagram video using the hashtag #HereToStay.
  3. Let them know: Tell your state Attorney General to publicly defend DACA with a statement about how it benefits your state. We need to get as many Attorneys General and elected officials as possible to speak up on behalf of DACA. Add your name here to your local Attorney General here: Also sign our national petition here.

Show Up: Join us and thousands of others in the streets. On August 15 (the 5th anniversary of DACA) United We Dream will host a national week of action in DC and across the country. If you have DACA or support immigrants, we need you there. Find more information here.

UWD is the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation & advocates for the dignity of immigrant families, regardless of immigration status.