DREAMers have become a political force in the immigration reform debate. Their advocacy – and work on their behalf by sympathetic lawmakers and immigration advocacy groups – helped spark President Obama’s directive last summer to shield from deportation many young people in the US illegally. Even House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia reversed his previous view and supported a version of the DREAM Act earlier this year.
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.