Lawmakers in the House should swiftly pass a newly introduced bill protecting Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought here as children, states a letter sent to House leaders today by ACE and 37 other higher education associations.
The letter endorses the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), writing that the legislation would “allow some undocumented young people, who have already invested in our country and in whom the country has already invested, to earn lawful permanent residence in the United States and a path to citizenship.”
The letter notes that Dreamers have overcome many barriers to contribute to the United States’ economy and security. They work and pay taxes, and many attend college and serve in the military. But they have been forced into an unacceptable legal and political limbo following President Trump’s September 2017 decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has shielded from deportation more than 700,000 Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children who grew up with American values and traditions, making them American in every way except for their immigration status.
Federal courts have blocked the rescission and the Supreme Court has not yet taken up the case, meaning DACA remains intact, only allowing for renewals but not new registrations. Congress has so far failed to act despite bipartisan and widespread support on Capitol Hill and across the country for permanent legal protections for Dreamers.
As ACE President Ted Mitchell said in a statement supporting the Dream and Promise Act, “The time to act is not just now, it’s long past due.”
The legislation would establish ten-year conditional permanent residency status for those who were brought to this country as minors, have been here at least four years as of the enactment date, graduate from a U.S. high school, obtain a GED credential or have been admitted to higher education, and meet other requirements. They also cannot have committed a felony or other serious crimes and can pose no threat to our national security or public safety. Dream-eligible individuals may qualify for permanent residency and pursue U.S. citizenship after 10 years by completing at least two years of higher education or military service, or having been steadily employed.
The bill also would restore the ability of states to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students on the basis of residency, though it does not require them to take any particular action in this area. It would also allow Dreamers to be eligible for federal student aid programs. This provision, in combination with the rest of the bill, serves as an important tool for achieving the goal of returning the United States to global leadership in higher education attainment.
The bill’s prospects appear good in the House, but its prospects are unclear in the Senate.
For more on DACA and the effort to provide a legislative solution for Dreamers, see the Protect Dreamers Higher Education Coalition web page.