The Federal DREAM Act

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, would provide a pathway to legal status for the thousands of undocumented students who graduate from high school each year. On May 11, 2011, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced the DREAM Act as S. 952 and H.R. 1842, respectively. To date, the DREAM Act has 32 co-sponsors in the Senate and two in the House.

Why is the DREAM Act Needed?

The DREAM Act addresses the plight of undocumented immigrants growing up in the United States who wish to go to college and obtain lawful employment. The bill allows current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a pathway to U.S. citizenship through college or the armed services.

  • An undocumented high-school graduate or GED recipient would be eligible to adjust to conditional lawful permanent resident (LPR) status if they have been physically present in the United States for at least five years and were younger than 16 when they first entered the country.
  • This LPR status would be granted on a conditional basis and valid for six years, during which time the student would be allowed to work, go to school, or join the military.
  • The conditional status would be removed and the person granted LPR status after six years once the student has either completed two years in a program for a bachelor's degree or higher degree or has served in the uniformed services for at least two years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.
  • DREAM Act students would not be eligible for federal education grants. Students would, however, be eligible for federal work study and student loans, and individual states would not be restricted from providing financial aid to the students.

What is the DREAM Act's current status?

Support for the DREAM Act has grown each year since it was first introduced in 2001 during the 107th Congress. In past years it has garnered 48 Senate co-sponsors and more than 152 Republican and Democratic House co-sponsors, more than one-third of the House. It has twice passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in bipartisan fashion, by a 16-3 vote in the 2003–2004 108th Congress, and again in 2006 by a voice vote without dissent as an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill. In May 2006, the DREAM Act passed the full Senate as part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611). On Oct. 24, 2007, in a 52–44 vote in the Senate, the DREAM Act (S. 2205) fell just 8 votes shy—with four senators absent for the vote—of the 60 votes necessary to proceed with debate on the bill. The DREAM Act continues to attract bipartisan support and now, for the first time, also enjoys the strong backing of the House and Senate leadership, all of the relevant committee chairs, and President Obama.