A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dream Act Brings Hope to 700,000 Undocumented Students

The number of deportations has increased drastically in recent years as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) strengthened its enforcement efforts.   However, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the enforcement arm of DHS, enforcement efforts are prioritized with emphasis on removing illegal immigrants who have a criminal background.  In fact, there is one group of illegal immigrants that has so far escaped the fate of expulsion, according to a recent report by the New York Times.  They are mostly young people who came to the United States without authorization when they were children.

There have been many instances in which immigrant students were released from detention after they were arrested for being without immigration status in the U.S.  There is a clear federal policy to suspend or defer enforcement efforts on them, according to various reports.  These students were brought to the United States by their parents who did not have legal status.  They attended schools and adopted an American lifestyle.   Many are now high school graduates but have difficulties continuing their education on account of their illegal status.  Although the current immigration policy is temporarily sparing these youngsters from deportation, their future will remain uncertain without actual changes in immigration law. 

Proposals have been made in Congress for many years to confer an opportunity for these young folks to become legalized.  These proposals, commonly known as the “Dream Act”, so far have not gone too far in the legislative process.  The terms of the Dream Act various.  According to the latest proposal in 2009, a person must be between the ages of 12 and 35 when the law was enacted, must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16, must have resided continuously in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years since the date of their arrival, must have graduated from a U.S. High School or obtained a General Education Diploma GED, and must have good moral character.  If eligible, these individuals will be able to obtain temporary residency for a six year period. 

Within the six year period, a qualified student must have acquired a two-year degree from a community college or completed 2 years of a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States.  Alternatively, he or she may also serve in the military for at least two years.  If the applicant fails to meet one of these three requirements, the student shall revert back to the immigration status that he or she had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status.

Furthermore, although the applicant would not be eligible for Pell grants, they would be entitled to apply for student loans and work study.   However, should these students commit a serious crime or a drug-related violation during these six years, they would lose their conditional status and subject to deportation.   Upon successful completion of the requirements at the end of the six years, the applicant will be eligible for lawful permanent status. 

Expectedly, the Dream Act is not without opposition, especially in this anemic economy.  Proponents argue that legalizing these young students would actually bring in a new pool of educated people to the workforce, reduce costs associated with social problems, and foster family unity.  If passed, the law will benefit more than 700,000 individuals throughout the United States.  Energetic and educated, these students have become increasingly vocal in fighting for their rights.  For example, in June of this year, many students campaigned for a 19-year-old Mexican-born Harvard student who was arrested by the immigrant officials to stay in the United States.  The Department of Homeland Security finally agreed to defer his deportation indefinitely.

No comments:

Post a Comment