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The Dream Act is a bill proposed to the United States Senate in August 2001. The purpose of the bill is to provide a legal basis for a mechanism that will enable undocumented immigrants who are within a specified age range to attain permanent residency of the U.S. by first fulfilling certain conditions. Dream Act stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. Even though this bill has been reintroduced several times after its initial introduction, it is yet to pass.
Proposed Mechanism and Requirements
The bill is proposed for a two stage acquisition of permanent residency. The first a temporary residency permit upon meeting specified conditions and the permanent residency is gained after having fulfilled a set of further requirements. In order to acquire temporary residency under the proposed terms of the Document, one would have to fulfil the following conditions: provide documentary evidence that they entered into the country aged below sixteen years of age and have been resident in the country for a minimum of five years, must have graduated from a high school in the U.S. or be in possession of a General Education Development certificate; show good moral behaviour and be certified free of a criminal history. A would-be beneficiary having attained temporary residency can qualify for permanent residency after six years if the following conditions are met: must have graduated from a higher institution or serve in the United States military for a minimum of two years and achieve an honourable discharge; be free of any criminal record; and be of good moral conduct.
Opposition and Criticism of the Act
Critics as well as opponents of the proposed bill have raised doubts about its potential benefits and expressed reservations as to its potential for criminal abuse and possible compromise of the American immigration system. Much of the criticisms have centred on its perception as the equivalent of an ‘amnesty’ program and tacit approval of illegal immigration into the United States, thus creating room for criminal elements to be legally shielded from deportation.
Arguments of those Who Support the Bill
Those who favour the bill offer a number of arguments, chiefly highlighting what they perceive as the potential benefits of the bill. Proponents of the bill are of the opinion that it will - in the near term or on the long run - be beneficial for the country’s education, economy and the military because it targets only the brightest of young people who have already been living in the U.S. They describe the act as a logical one considering the fact that many of its proposed beneficiaries have been living in the U.S without having chosen to do so because they were brought in by their parents.