Immigration: What Is the DREAM Act?

DREAM Act Press Conference in Los Angeles

Korean Resource Center/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, also called the DREAM Act, is a bill last introduced into Congress on March 26, 2009. Its purpose is to give undocumented students a chance at becoming permanent residents.

The bill provides students with a path to citizenship regardless of the status passed on to them by their undocumented parents. A previous version of the bill states that if a student entered the U.S. five years before the passage of the legislation and was under age 16 when they entered the U.S., they would be eligible for a six-year conditional residency status after completing an associates degree or two years of military service. If at the end of the six-year period the individual has demonstrated good moral character, he or she could then apply for U.S. citizenship.

More information about the DREAM Act can be found on the DREAM Act Portal.

Why Support the DREAM Act?

Here are some of the points supporters of the DREAM Act make to justify it:

  1. These young immigrants are blameless for their current predicament. They were brought here at a young age by their parents and had no say in the matter. It makes no sense and is morally wrong to punish them for the offenses of their parents. The government should treat them as victims, not offenders. The country has already made a substantial investment in many of these young immigrants and it would be senseless to throw that away. Most of them have attended public schools. They have earned high school diplomas in the public system. Many have benefited from public healthcare and some from other public assistance. The government could get a return from these investments by allowing them to contribute to the U.S. economy and society. Many have completed high school but cannot attend college because of their undocumented status. Studies show DREAM Act immigrants could provide a powerful boost to the U.S. economy.
  2. Many of the typical complaints about immigrants don’t apply to these young people. Most are as American as the native-born citizens around them. They speak English, understand American life and culture, and they are fully assimilated. They tend to be highly motivated and prepared to accept the responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.
  3. DREAM Act legislation could transform this lost generation of young people into U.S. taxpayers. Even some conservative Republicans such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry support the DREAM Act because it would make these immigrants taxpayers who contribute to the economy, instead of people forced to live unproductive lives in the shadows of a nation that won’t acknowledge them. “Are we going to create a class of tax wasters or are we going to create taxpayers?” Perry said. “Texas chose the latter. Every state has the freedom to make that decision.”
  4. Bringing these young immigrants out of the shadows would enhance national security. As long as the government considers them here illegally, they will not come forward. National security is strengthened when everyone in the country lives openly and contributes to society. To take advantage of the DREAM Act, young immigrants would be required to pass background checks and give their addresses and contact information to the government.
  5. Giving legal status to these young immigrants through the DREAM Act would not cost the government. In fact, the fees immigration officials could charge applicants could more than cover the administrative costs of running the program. Former President Barack Obama’s deferred action, DREAM Act alternative program already uses fees to cover its costs.
  6. Many of the eligible young immigrants are willing to give public service to the country, either through the U.S. military or non-profit enterprises. The DREAM Act could be the catalyst for a wave of service and social activism across the country. Young immigrants are eager to contribute their time and energy to a nation that embraces them.
  7. The DREAM Act is in keeping with the United States’ heritage as a nation that treats immigrants fairly and makes special efforts to reach out to young people. American tradition as a sanctuary for exiles dictates that we allow these innocent immigrants a chance to move on with their lives and not cast them as refugees without a homeland.
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McFadyen, Jennifer. "Immigration: What Is the DREAM Act?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, McFadyen, Jennifer. (2021, February 16). Immigration: What Is the DREAM Act? Retrieved from McFadyen, Jennifer. "Immigration: What Is the DREAM Act?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).