The comprehensive immigration reform bill released today includes a broad version of the DREAM Act that will allow undocumented immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 to apply for a green card after five years.
The DREAM Act provisions include no upper age limits for applicants, which means an immigrant who came to the U.S at the age of 10 and is now 60 can apply for a green card after five years. Past iterations of the bill that did not pass have excluded immigrants over the age of 30 from applying for permanent residency.
Leading advocates for the DREAM Act say the provisions are as strong as they could have hoped.
“We’re really excgted about these parts,” said Myrna Orozco, field director for the group United We Dream. “It’s a long time coming, and there are really good measures in it.”
But she said, the group is concerned that the broader path to citizenship will take too long. In the past, UWD has called for a 7 year path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“Thirteen years is very long time, especially for older people, for our parents and grandparents,” she said. “We’ll fight to change that.”
Under the DREAM provisions, most immigrants who entered the country as children and who have been enrolled in college for two years, graduated from college or served in the military for at least four years will be allowed to apply for a green card five years after they’re granted the new Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Most other immigrants have to wait 10 years for a green card under the bill. Like all other immigrants, DREAM applicants will have to pass a criminal background check.
The DREAM movement, a vast network of young undocumented immigrants, has transformed the political landscape on immigration reform in recent years. DREAM-eligible youth have led coming-out campaigns to reveal their status to the public and demand a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Last year, the Obama administration granted DREAM youth “deferred action” from deportation and the right to work in the U.S. The program was a major victory for the movement, but DREAMer groups kept their eyes honed on citizenship.