The Dream Act of 2021 is intended to provide protections for immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and still risk deportation. 20 years after the inception of the first Dream Act, this newer version would further support younger immigrants still trying to gain a stronger foothold in the country.
The Progression of the Dream Act
In 2001, the initial Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act came to pass. Following the introduction of the Dream Act, many younger undocumented immigrants became known as “Dreamers,” who faced deportation despite entering the country as children. Since then, the bill has undergone certain changes with new versions introduced over the last 20 years. Specifically, since the start of the Dream Act, 11 new versions have been drafted.
The primary goal of every version of the Dream Act has been to provide Dreamers with a chance to gain legal status as citizens of the U.S. Even though every version of the bill has seen bipartisan support, with up to 152 co-sponsors in the House and 48 in the Senate, the bill has yet to become law.
The last time the bill nearly became law was when it passed the House in 2010, but the Senate support was 60 votes below the amount needed to pass it into law. However, the latest versions could travel farther.
What the New Versions Aim to Achieve
As of 2021, there are a couple of new iterations of the Dream Act undergoing review. These include the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6), which includes a version of the Dream Act among other legislation, and the Dream Act of 2021, referred to as S. 264. Both bills intend to provide a clear path to citizenship for aspiring Dreamers. Additionally, H.. 6 would provide a path to citizenship for people on the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs.
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 to the House on March 3, while Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin introduced the Dream Act of 2021 to the Senate on February 4.
How the Dream Act of 2021 Would Work
Both H.R. 6 and S. 264 versions of the Dream Act of 2021 would give younger undocumented immigrants the chance to gain citizenship in the U.S., including current, future, and former undocumented GED recipients and high school graduates.
To achieve this, the Dream Act of 2021 would use a process consisting of three main steps, including:
1. Conditional Permanent Residence
Under the Dream Act, Dreamers would be able to achieve conditional permanent resident (CPR) status. This includes the ability to legally work in the country.
To qualify, individuals will need to have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or meet other requirements. These requirements include having entered the country as a child, not having a criminal history with convictions for certain crimes, not having participated in persecuting another person, and having gained entry into a higher education institution or received a high school diploma or GED. Regarding the last requirement, individuals may also qualify for CPR if they are currently enrolled in a program or secondary school with the goal of obtaining a diploma or GED.
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security also has the ability to waiver specific types of criminal offenses for either family unity, humanitarian purposes, or another reason that serves the public’s best interests.
2. Lawful Permanent Residence
After obtaining CPR status, individuals may be able to qualify for lawful permanent residence (LPR) if they receive a degree from a higher education institution, complete a minimum of two years of military service without dishonorable discharge, or work for a minimum of three years with employment authorization for 75% of the time. Individuals with disabilities or who face serious hardships if deported may qualify for a “hardship waiver” if they don’t meet those requirements.
If an individual can retain LPR status for five years, he or she may be able to officially gain citizenship via naturalization.
Helping Millions of Undocumented Immigrants
If the new Dream Act of 2021 comes to pass, it could help millions of younger immigrants who would otherwise remain at risk of deportation. A total of around two million Dreamers may qualify for CPR with the help of S. 264, with approximately 1.7 million of them able to maintain this status and gain LPR status. Around one million additional Dreamers may qualify for CPR status with enrollment in an educational institution.
H.R. 6 would help an additional three million qualifying Dreamers who may be able to obtain CPR status.
While it’s unclear whether the new Dream Act of 2021 will become law, it’s another progressive step in immigration reform that could help many immigrants and their families.