DREAM Act 101: What You Need to Know

By Andrew Simpson 09-21-2010

In the last few weeks, the DREAM Act has become a source of hope for many and a source of debate and speculation for others. However, what some have construed to be a complex piece of legislation is, in fact, very straightforward.

Here's what the DREAM Act would do:

First, for certain undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the United States at a young age, it would create a path towards eventual legal permanent status if they were to go to college or serve in the U.S. military.

Second, the DREAM Act would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status. In other words, immigrants would be able to receive in-state tuition in the state in which they reside.

The requirements for young immigrants to qualify for the DREAM Act are quite specific. They must be younger than 35, have entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and have lived here for at least five years. Furthermore, they must be considered "of good moral character" and free of any major legal infractions.

Those who meet these criteria would be granted a six-year conditional permanent resident status after high school graduation. If, during this period, they graduate from a two or four-year college or serve in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years, they will be granted permanent resident status.

The DREAM Act is not "amnesty", as some might label it, nor does it reward those who break immigration laws. Rather, it provides a path to citizenship for some of our country's most promising future leaders who have grown up in the U.S. almost all of their lives and who long for a chance to fully contribute to society.

The benefits of passing the DREAM Act are hard to overlook. Currently, we invest thousands of dollars in public education for undocumented students only to see this investment squandered; by preventing them from staying in the country and by erecting barriers to their higher education. The DREAM Act would put an end to this brain drain. Furthermore, beneficiaries of the DREAM Act would have greater access to education and high-paying jobs, which would translate to more taxable income for federal, state, and local governments, according to a recent College Board study.

Finally, and most importantly, we as Christians are called to love and care for the stranger among us (Matthew 25:31-46). There is no more tangible way to answer this call than to support the nearly one-million undocumented youth in our nation who desperately need for the DREAM Act to pass in order to achieve their full potential as contributors to society.

It's time for Congress to stop playing politics with the DREAM Act and to pass this piece of legislation which stands to improve the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Andrew Simpson is a policy and outreach associate at Sojourners.

+Ask your Senators to pass the DREAM Act today!

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