Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano voted in favor of H.R. 6497, the DREAM (Development, Recovery, and Education of Alien Minors) Act, which would give young undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children an opportunity to work their way towards citizenship after graduating from college or serving in the U.S. military.
The DREAM Act passed by a vote of 216 to 198 with bipartisan support.
"These students have excelled through hard work, have been educated in America, and should be allowed to contribute to our country," Napolitano said. "For most of them America is their only home. It would not be fair to punish them for the actions of their parents after years of working hard and playing by the rules. These youth are the boldest and the brightest, and our nation will be stronger, safer, and more prosperous if we allow them to fully contribute to our society. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this common-sense reform."
Facts on the DREAM Act:
* Young people must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for the conditional status via the DREAM Act:
o Must have been brought to the United States as a child (15 years old or younger).
o Are currently 29 years old or younger.
o Have lived in the U.S. for 5 years or more before the date of the DREAM Act's enactment.
o Have graduated from an American high school, has obtained a GED, or is admitted to an institution of higher education.
o Have been a person of "good moral character," as defined by our immigration laws.
o Submit biometric and biographic information and complete security and law-enforcement background checks.
o Undergo a medical examination.
o Register for the Selective Service.
o Pay a surcharge in connection with the initial application.
* While they have conditional status, DREAM Act participants are:
o Excluded from receiving government subsidies to participate in the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
o Ineligible for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other entitlement programs.
o Prohibited from obtaining Pell grants, Federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, and other federal grants.
o However, they are still eligible for federal work study and student loans as well as social insurance programs to which they have contributed, as this will allow them to earn or repay the money they need for their education.
* After their five year conditional status, these same individuals must have either:
o Earned a degree from an institution of higher education.
o Completed at least two years of post-secondary education in good standing towards a bachelor's degree; or
o Served in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years and, if discharged, have received an honorable discharge.
o Individuals must also have demonstrated good moral character and lived continuously in the United States during those 5 years.
* After these 5 years, individuals apply for an extension of their conditional status for a second period of 5 years. Individuals will then have a chance to apply for permanent citizenship if they meet all of the following standards:
o Have paid taxes.
o Can demonstrate understanding of the history, principles, and government of the United States and the ability to read, write, and speak English.
o Have maintained good moral character throughout the previous 10 years.
Other facts on the DREAM ACT:
* The DREAM Act only applies to individuals who entered the U.S. as children. According to DREAM Act's provisions, beneficiaries must have entered the United States when they were 15 years old or younger.
* DREAM Act applicants will be responsible for paying fees to cover the costs of USCIS processing their applications. According to Section 286(m) of Immigration and Nationality Act provisions, the cost of having U.S. Customs and Immigration Services process DREAM Act applications will be covered by the application fees.
* DREAM Act applicants would be subject to rigorous criminal background checks and reviews. All criminal grounds of inadmissibility and removability that apply to other aliens seeking lawful permanent resident status would apply and bar criminal aliens from gaining conditional or unconditional LPR status under the DREAM Act. Additionally, decisions to grant status are discretionary, and any alien with a criminal record not automatically barred by these provisions would only be granted status when and if the Secretary exercises her discretion favorably.
* The DREAM Act would reduce the deficit over the next decade. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the DREAM Act in its current form will increase government revenues by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years. This is because individuals in the DREAM Act program are not eligible for most government services and make a greater economic contribution after they have graduated college or served in the military.
* The DREAM Act has long enjoyed the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
o It has passed twice out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.
o It was included in 2006 comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed out of the Senate, with the support of 11 Senate Republicans currently serving.
o And in 2007, despite the support of 12 Republicans, including 7 currently in the Senate, a standalone version of the DREAM Act fell just 8 votes shy from the 60-votes needed to be debated.