How the DREAM Act has Changed

How the DREAM Act has Changed

The DREAM act, as we know it today, was first introduced to Congress in 2001 by a representative from Illinois named Luis Gutiérrez. When he introduced the legislation, it received an intense amount of interest in Congress and was called “Immigrant Children’s Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act of 2001”. The legislation was designed to address a fundamental problem facing undocumented children. Because of various standards and laws, those children are eligible to receive free public education until they reach the age of 18. However, once those children have come of age, there is a wide variety of legal and social challenges to pursuing higher education.

Undocumented children, for example, are ineligible to receive federal student financial aid, a damning blow when you consider the already exorbitant cost of higher education within the United States. In addition, these children are at risk to be deported from the United States, when many have little to no ties to their home countries after living and studying nearly their entire lives in the United States. Even if they are able to avoid deportation, they are legally prohibited from being employed within the United States. The legislation that Luis Gutiérrez brought before Congress in 2001 was designed to address some of these fundamental problems.

The Evolution of Luis Gutiérrez’s Legislation

If you’re not a stranger to the news, then you’re no doubt aware of the gridlock that has marked much of what’s happened in the United States Congress for the past two decades. In one form or another, the act has been passed around Congress for the past 13 years. After the initial move to pass the legislation, the bill remained dormant for several years while Republicans controlled the Congress.

In 2007, Richard Durbin reintroduced the DREAM act to Congress. Despite his and others efforts, however, the bill failed to make it past the Senate where a filibuster blocked it. Most recently, it was considered for a vote in 2010 under the direction of the Obama administration. However, though the bill again failed to make it past the Senate, where it was blocked again by a meager five votes.

The Obama Administration’s Deferral Policy

In the absence of substantive moves by Congress, President Obama moved to handle the issue unilaterally to the best of his ability. Under his direction, immigration officials were directed to defer the deportation of immigrants that entered the country before they reached the age of 16. This program is called DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. These individuals would also have to be deemed to pose no security threat to the United States, as well as other certain requirements. Once this benefit is granted, it provides protection from deportation and authorization to work, for a period of two years. As a result of this, these undocumented immigrants find it easier to find work and paths to higher education. However, helpful though the directive from the administration is, it is still not as comprehensive as the DREAM act itself, which provides a clearer path to permanent citizenship.