Imagine that for as far back as you can remember you've lived in the United States, attending school and participating in the community. Maybe you've even served in the U.S. military.

Yet, you're not a U.S. citizen, and each day you face deportment to a country you've never known.

The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, is also referred to as the Deferred Action Process.

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that certain people who came to the United States as minors may request deferred action for possible deportment. It specifically applies only for those young people who were brought to the United States as minors by their parents and know no other home. It allows the best and brightest young immigrants to earn legal status.

But that path isn't easy. It's a lengthy process. The Migration Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., estimates that more than 1.4 million unauthorized immigrant youth and young adults would meet the qualification requirements and that 38 percent of these will successfully satisfy the process steps to earn permanent immigration status.

A rigorous process

  • Young people must have entered the country before age 16 (must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012), prove that they have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, are currently in school or graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED. They must exhibit good moral character, not present a risk to national security or public safety, and have no crimes on their record that would make them inadmissible including felony offense or significant misdemeanor. This allows them to obtain conditional status.
  • After six years in conditional status, these individuals must have met additional requirements. They must attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years and pass criminal background checks. Without successfully meeting these requirements, they will lose their legal status and become subject to deportation.
  • Applicants are responsible for the cost of processing their applications through the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Each deferred action request is decided on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, information submitted in a person's request for deferred action is protected from disclosure to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement. See U.S. Department of Homeland Security website for specific information.
  • DREAM Act students are not eligible for federal grants such as Pell Grants. They are only eligible for federal student loans and federal work-study programs.

Benefits of the DREAM Act

According to supporters of the DREAM Act,

  • Motivated, bright young people, even though they are not U.S. citizens, will be able to earn legal status in the only country they've ever known.
  • The DREAM Act will assist the U.S. military in its recruiting efforts.
  • These undocumented children are honor roll students and aspiring teachers, engineers, and doctors. Enabling the best of the best to contribute and become educated plays an important roll in the nation's efforts to increase the amount of college graduates who contribute to the U.S. economy with their taxes and their talent.
  • The DREAM Act frees immigration and border security experts to dedicate their enforcement resources to detaining and deporting criminals and those who pose a real threat to the country.

To learn more about the Dream Act and the filing process, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site.

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