Senate Immigration Bill Contains DREAM Provisions

The Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Reform Act of 2013 (S. 744), more commonly known as the immigration reform bill, contains key provisions related to the DREAM Act. The bill was a remarkable example of bipartisan collaboration, passing by a vote of 68-32 and laying the groundwork for comprehensive immigration reform. Inclusion of the DREAM Act is considered a victory by many who have been advocating for a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Broadly, S. 744 provides a 13-year path to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants. While there have been various iterations of the DREAM Act since its first bipartisan introduction by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in 2001, S. 744 provides an expedited road to citizenship for DREAMers who meet the  following eligibility provisions:

  • Must be younger than 16-years-old on the date in which they entered the United States;
  • Must have earned high school diploma or GED in the United States;
  • Must meet one of the following criteria related to higher education or military service:
    • Must have obtained a degree from an institution in the  United States or have been enrolled for two years in a bachelor’s or higher degree program;
    • Must serve or have served in at least four years in the military (and if applicable, with honorable discharge);
  • Must demonstrate an understanding of the English language and basic United States civics;
  • Must have been a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) for at least 5 years before applying for Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR).

RPI is a new status created under S.744 and would be available to immigrants who were in the United States on or before December 31, 2011, have paid all tax or fee liabilities, and not been convicted of certain crimes. Through the path to citizenship outlined by the DREAM Act, persons who meet the above criteria will be eligible for RPI status and will be able to apply for LPR after just 5 years. 

In terms of federal student aid, if an RPI meets the DREAM criteria, they will also be eligible for Federal Work-Study (FWS) and Federal Direct Student Loans. These students are not eligible for the Pell Grant until they become LPRs.

NASFAA has long supported the DREAM Act and is encouraged by its inclusion in S. 744. The bill now moves to the House where it will likely face an uphill battle.

 

Publication Date: 7/3/2013


Leslie T | 7/8/2013 4:52:07 PM

Though these changes are welcome, this bill should have language to clarify for any state currently denying these students in-state tuition rates, that the students are considered to be lawfully present in the United States. Though not eligible for federal or state grant aid, they should not be treated as illegal on the state level - they are no longer illegal, and their eligibility for loans and work-study would further support this. Otherwise, they have no chance of being able to afford a degree if they are forced to pay out of state rates, leaving this bill, for all of the work put into it, as DOA on the state level for those inhospitable states unwilling to provide in-state rates to our Dreamer students. Student loans wouldn't come anywhere close to covering the cost of out of state tuition, nor would work-study allotments, and, obviously, Parent PLUS loans are not an option for these students.

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