Last night Congresswoman Chellie Pingree voted to pass historic legislation that offers a path to citizenship and service for those brought to the United States as children. The DREAM Act passed the House last night and is being considered by the Senate.
"This law is a good first step to help individuals caught in the terrible situation of being forced to leave what they know as their home years after being brought here as children," said Pingree. "These young men and women have worked hard, supported their communities, and want to contribute. Making it possible for them to succeed, and for our country to share in that success, is the good and right thing to do."
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would offer a path to citizenship for those who were brought to the country when they were 15 or younger. Eligible individuals have to be 29 or younger, have lived in the country for five years, have graduated from an American high school and are of good moral character, as defined by immigration laws.
Successful DREAM Act applicants are granted conditional nonimmigrant status for five years. To reapply for another five years, applicants have to have earned a degree or completed two years of higher education, or served in the Armed Forces for two years. After 10 years of continuously living and paying taxes in the United States, participants would be allowed to apply for citizenship. With nonimmigrant status, individuals would not be eligible for most forms of public aid, but would be able to apply for student loans and legally work to pay for higher education.
"This legislation is an important part to comprehensively reforming our immigration system to be more fair and effective," said Pingree. "Giving the best and brightest the opportunity to work for their education and citizenship is a crucial first step."
The bill did not have enough votes in the Senate today to move forward, but Pingree is hopeful they will debate it in the coming weeks.