Senators from both sides of the aisle introduced a bill on Feb. 3, giving undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children the chance to become citizens.
The legislation, sponsored by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin and South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham, is the latest version of the DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
Immigration policies shift under the new administration
The reintroduction of the DREAM Act, which was first proposed in 2001, comes as President Joe Biden begins outlining his reforms over immigration, much of which includes rolling back several of President Trump’s policies.
Trump sought to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – program during his term but was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. On his first day in office, Biden signed an executive order preserving DACA.
The “new” DREAM Act isn’t really new
The senators say the bill’s 2021 iteration is identical to the legislation proposed during the past two legislative sessions. The DREAM Act would grant permanent residency and eventually citizenship to young, undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, such as:
- Graduating from high school or earning a GED
- Enrolling in higher education
- Working with or serving in the military
- Passing background checks
According to supporters of the measure, it would allow 2 million “Dreamers” to pursue a path to citizenship and better contribute to their families and communities and boost the U.S. economy.
Immigration advocates hope for a new approach
The U.S. has not approved meaningful immigration reform in the past 15 years. After the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress several times, President Obama created DACA in 2012 to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
While the program allowed 800,000 “Dreamers” to live and work in the U.S., it did not include opportunities for them to become citizens. Sen. Graham says he wants the DREAM Act to be approved as part of a comprehensive immigration package and not as a stand-alone bill.