The Dream Act of 2017
On July 20 two United State Senators, one Republican and one Democrat, introduced the Dream Act of 2017. If it becomes law, the Dream Act would grant permanent resident status on a conditional basis to individuals who entered the United States as children. Specifically, the law would grant status to individuals who are inadmissible or deportable from the United States or are in temporary protected status and who:
- Have been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding the enactment of the law;
- Were 17 years old or younger on the date of their initial entry into the United States;
- Are not inadmissible for certain grounds inadmissibility, including criminal, student visa abuse, and unlawful voting;
- Have not been convicted of a federal or state offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year or 3 or more federal or state crimes for which the person was imprisoned for an aggregate of 90 days or more; and
- Have been admitted to an institution of higher education or have graduated from high school or obtained a GED or is enrolled in secondary school or a program to obtain their GED
The Act in its current form states that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall cancel removal and grant conditional permanent resident status to any person who was granted DACA unless that person has since engaged in conduct that would make him or her ineligible for DACA.
The Act also states that the continuous residence requirement does not terminate upon service of a notice to appear, meaning that if the person applying for the conditional permanent residence has been placed into removal proceedings, the initiation of removal proceedings does not break their continuous residence as it does for other types of immigration benefits, such as Cancellation of Removal. However, the person cannot have left the United States for any period of more than 90 days at a time or more than 180 days in the aggregate during the preceding four years.
If an individual is eligible for this benefit, the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General should not remove that person from the United States, and should allow the individual the opportunity to apply for this benefit during removal proceedings.
Once granted permanent residence under this law, an individual would have conditional permanent resident status for 8 years. This status could be terminated if the individual ceases to meet admissibility or criminal requirements, and the person would return to the immigration status he or she had prior to becoming a conditional permanent resident.
The conditions of the conditional permanent resident status would be removed and the individual would be a lawful permanent resident if the person continues to meet the admissibility and criminal requirements, has not abandoned their United States residence, and has acquired a degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or completed at least two years towards a bachelor’s degree, two years of military service, or has been employed for at least three years with employment authorization. The individual must also show hardship to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, parent, or child. The individual must be able to read, write, and speak English and demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government.
The individual could not apply for naturalization while in conditional resident status, but it is possible that if the individual is able to remove the conditions on their conditional permanent residence and meet the remainder of the requirements for naturalization, he or she would eventually be able to become a United States citizen.
The Dream Act of 2017 would offer additional protection and benefits to DACA recipients and those individuals who came to the United States as children. This is an important piece of legislation and its passage would offer a path to permanent residency and potentially citizenship to many DACA recipients and other undocumented individuals.
Joseph Law Firm will continue to keep track of changes in the law to best advocate for our clients. If you have questions about your eligibility for immigration benefits or relief from removal, contact our office for a consultation.