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DREAM Act: Senate immigration reform bill offers 'best' version yet

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In such a climate, the Senate bill is much less restrictive in terms of its eligibility criteria and more generous in what it offers than were previous versions of the DREAM Act, according to a legislative summary of the bill and additional details provided by a Senate aide.

The Senate bill states that potential DREAMers must have been brought to the US at age 15 or before, been present in the US since Dec. 31, 2011, obtain a high school diploma or equivalent, and pursue higher education or serve in the military.

After five years, DREAMers not only will be eligible for green cards (otherwise known as a “legal permanent resident”), but also will become immediately eligible for US citizenship. That’s versus a minimum of 10 years for a green card and 15 years for citizenship for most other undocumented people. 

Praeli credits Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, the majority whip and longtime sponsor of a DREAM Act, for playing a key role in securing this five-year path to US citizenship, the fastest such route offered by any DREAM bill.

What’s gone? While previous DREAM bills restricted eligibility to those under the age of 30, the current Senate bill has no such cap. Past measures required five years of continuous residency in the US – the current measure stipulates only the time individuals must have been brought into the country and their age at that point.

This lifting of the age caps was a key DREAMer demand, Praeli says. “It is only logical that for someone who has been here since before the age of 16, but they are now 35 or 40, they have greater equities [in the US] than someone who is younger," she says. "It’s almost like logic came back to people: ‘Oh, yes, someone who has been ‘aged out’ is still a dreamer.' ”

The shift toward more generous proposals for DREAMers indicates that even opponents of the immigration reform drive are not bitterly opposed to helping young people brought to the US as children. 

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