2012 presidential election results reignited interest in comprehensive
immigration reform generally and in legislation known as the “DREAM Act,”
in particular. DREAM Act legislation would enable certain unauthorized
aliens to legalize their status. The name DREAM Act derives from the bill
title, Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, but it refers
more broadly to measures to provide immigration relief to unauthorized
students, whether or not particular bills carry that name. DREAM Act
proposals to provide relief to unauthorized aliens who were brought, as
children, to live in the United States by their parents or other adults have been
controversial in recent years, but historically they have enjoyed a broad base
of support in Congress.
Unauthorized aliens in the United States are able to receive free public
education through high school. They may experience difficulty obtaining
higher education, however, for several reasons. Among these reasons is a
provision enacted in 1996 that prohibits states from granting unauthorized
aliens certain postsecondary educational benefits on the basis of state
residence, unless equal benefits are made available to all U.S. citizens.
This prohibition is commonly understood to apply to the granting of “in-state”
residency status for tuition purposes. Unauthorized alien students also
are not eligible for federal student financial aid. More broadly, as
unauthorized aliens, they typically are not legally allowed to work and are
subject to being removed from the country.
Multiple DREAM Act bills have been introduced in recent Congresses to address
the unauthorized student population. Most have proposed a two-prong
approach of repealing the 1996 provision and enabling some unauthorized
alien students to become U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs) through an
immigration procedure known as cancellation of removal. While there
are other options for dealing with this population, this report deals
exclusively with the DREAM Act approach in light of the considerable
congressional interest in it.
In the 111th Congress, the House approved DREAM
Act language as part of an unrelated bill, the Removal Clarification Act
of 2010 (H.R. 5281). However, the Senate failed, on a 55-41 vote, to invoke
cloture on a motion to agree to the House-passed DREAM Act amendment, and the
bill died at the end of the Congress. The House-approved language differed
in key respects from earlier versions of the DREAM Act. Bills to legalize
the status of unauthorized alien students (S. 952, H.R. 1842, H.R. 3823, H.R.
5869) were again introduced in the 112th Congress.
On June 15, 2012, in the absence of congressional action on DREAM Act
legislation, the Obama Administration announced that certain individuals
who were brought to the United States as children and meet other criteria
would be considered for relief from removal. Under a memorandum issued by
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on that date, these individuals
would be eligible for deferred action for two years, subject to renewal, and
could apply for employment authorization. DHS began accepting requests for
consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals (or DACA, as the
program is known) in August 2012.
DREAM Act legislation may be taken up in the 113th Congress.
It may be considered as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill or
as a separate, stand-alone measure. As of this writing, no DREAM Act bills
have been introduced in the 113th Congress.
Date of Report: February 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 32 Order Number: RL33863 Price: $29.95
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