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Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act - Again

THE ISSUE:

New York educates thousands of public school students who are undocumented immigrants. Among these graduates, some attend institutions of higher education in New York, in part because the state allows undocumented immigrant students who grew up in the state to attend public colleges at in-state tuition rates.

Although New York school districts educate and prepare many of these young immigrants for colleges and careers, barriers in federal immigration law prevent many students from fully reaching their potential. The Office of the State Comptroller estimated, in their May 2013 report on the New York State DREAM Act, that 8,300 undocumented students were enrolled in our public institutions of higher education in the Fall 2012 semester, with most enrolled at CUNY (6,546 students).

Since the children of undocumented immigrants generally derive their immigration status solely from their parents, most have no mechanism to obtain legal residency in the US, even if they have lived here most of their lives. In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was implemented – in order to allow for a two-year deferral from deportation proceedings, as well as the opportunity for renewal, and provide young undocumented immigrants with the opportunity to apply for a work permit – and is a valuable temporary action. However, full statutory action through the DREAM Act is necessary for young immigrant New Yorkers ready to succeed in college and careers.

THE SOLUTION:

The DREAM Act would enact the following major changes in federal law:

  • Qualify individuals who came to the US at age 15 or younger at least five years before the date of the bill’s enactment and who have maintained good moral character for lawful permanent resident status upon obtaining: a college degree or completing two years of college; graduation from a US high school or being awarded a high school equivalency certificate in the US; or having served in the US military for at least four years and discharged honorably.
     
  • Allow certain students with registered provisional immigrant status to work, go to school, and be eligible for work study and student loans. These students would not be able to travel abroad for lengthy periods and not be eligible for Pell Grants or certain other federal financial aid grants.
     
  • Repeals a provision of the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that requires states, like New York, which offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented students attending public colleges, to extend the same rate to nonresidents of the state.

The DREAM Act would have a life-changing impact enabling these students to fully participate in and become productive members of New York’s economy.