DREAM Act Aims to Increase Educational Opportunities
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 10/22/2003The Senate Judiciary Committee might soon vote on legislation that could improve the lives of tens of thousands of young people.
Sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), S 1545, includes several provisions to promote education and stability for an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 high school graduates who have lived in the United States for more than five years, but are unable to continue their education because of their parents' illegal status. Proponents of the legislation say that the DREAM Act will dramatically reduce drop out rates, which in turn will give more immigrant students equal opportunities to become part of the educated workforce.
If passed, the DREAM Act would repeal a 1996 federal provision that discourages states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students. It also grants conditional permanent resident status for six years to undocumented immigrants of good moral character, who are younger than 16 years old and were present in the United States for at least five years before enactment of the Act. The immigrants also would have to obtain an associate's or trade school degree, completed two years in a bachelor's program or higher, served honorably in the military, or performed volunteer community service.
Sen. Hatch put a face to the need for the legislation.
"One young man who is in this predicament lives in my home state of Utah. His name is Danny Cairo. Danny came to the United States at the age of six with his mother who abandoned him eight years later. Danny had to drop out of school in order to support himself," Hatch said. "Fortunately, he met Kevin King, who adopted Danny in 2001. With the help of Mr. King, Danny is presently attending the University of Utah."
Danny's story, however, does not necessarily have a happy ending, according to Hatch. Because of the date of adoption, Danny is unable to derive immigration status from his adoptive father. Therefore, he lives in legal limbo and faces the threat of deportation daily. In addition, he may never be able to legally work in the United States.
At a news conference sponsored by the National Council of La Raza in April, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., also voiced her support for the DREAM Act.
"The bill simply allows states to grant talented, academically qualified youth an opportunity to pay in-state tuition if they also meet state residency requirements. Removing this financial burden will give many deserving students the chance to fulfill their dream of going to college," she said.