The United States could eventually grant citizenship to roughly 2.5 million undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which passed in the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives on March 18, would give a group known as the “Dreamers” permanent resident status for 10 years. Here is an overview of the act:
Residency for Young Immigrants (Dreamers): If the Dream and Promise Act becomes law, this groundbreaking measure would grant conditional permanent resident status to nearly all young adults in America who have been continuously in the U.S. since on or before January 1, 2021 and who were 18 years old or younger on the initial date they entered the U.S.
This includes not only Dreamers who qualify under the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but further expands it to include all young immigrants in America, even those with deportation orders.
Even children of certain temporary workers who (including E-1, E-2, H-1B, and L visa holders) who were present in the U.S. since January 1, 2021, and arrived in the U.S. at the age of 18 or younger, who aged out after turning 21, are eligible. The Act allows Dreamers access to federal aid and directs states to provide in-state tuition fees. Finally, some eligible Dreamers who were deported during the Trump administration may apply for the program from abroad.
Step One: Conditional Residency Status
How To qualify:
-Came to the U.S. before the age of 18 and have continuously lived here since on or before January 1, 2021;
-Have a high school diploma or an equivalent in the U.S., or are currently be enrolled in a program to earn a high school diploma or an equivalent;
-Do not have criminal convictions, with the exception of immigration-related state offenses, marijuana-related misdemeanor offenses, non-violent civil disobedience, and minor traffic offenses, have not been convicted of the following: a state or federal felony offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year; or 3 or more distinct federal or state misdemeanor offenses for which the person was imprisoned for a total of 90 days or more; or a crime of domestic violence (unless the person is a victim themselves of domestic violence or other criminal activity).
Step Two: Permanent Residence Status Those who obtain “conditional permanent resident” status can immediately apply to become permanent residents (LPRs or green-card holders) as soon as they meet ONE of the following conditions:
– Higher Education: Graduate from a college or university, or complete at least two years of a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S. (education track) OR
– Military: Complete at least two years of honorable military service (military track); OR
–Work/Employment: Have worked for a period totaling at least three years and, while having valid employment authorization, have worked at least 75 percent of the time that they had such authorization. Periods in which individuals were enrolled in school without working while having valid employment authorization would not count against them.
Step Three: Naturalization Those who have held permanent resident” status for five years can apply for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.
Residency for TPS Holders and DED Recipients: Long-time TPS and DED status holders can apply for permanent residence. The bill would also allow other TPS holders to apply for residency (for instance through a spouse) even if they did not enter the U.S. legally.
How To qualify:
– Came to the U.S. and have lived here continuously at least three years before the bill’s enactment;
– Have been eligible for or had TPS on September 17, 2017, or had DED as of January 20, 2021 which include individuals from the following countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as individuals with DED from Liberia. This does not include nationals from Venezuela and Burma who were recently granted TPS status in March 2021.
Benefits of Farm Workforce Modernization Act: If enacted, would provide a special a Certified Agricultural Worker status for certain undocumented farmworkers, their spouses, and children. These farmworkers can then earn residency through payment of a $1,000 fine and the completion of additional agricultural work.
How To qualify: Have worked at least 180 days in agriculture over the last two years or be the spouses or child of the worker
It’s important to understand that this legislation will only become a law if the Senate passes the measure as well. The fact is that Democrats control the House of Representatives, but only have a very slim majority in the Senate. There are 100 Senate seats, but what makes matters complicated are Senate rules which currently require 60 votes for most measures to pass, in order for the president to sign then into law, which is commonly referred to as the “Filibuster” rule. The Senate only has 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris has one vote, so that is only 51 votes, not near the 60 needed.
Most Republicans oppose immigration reform, so there are likely few additional votes. Many experts believe that the only way to get President Biden’s immigration reforms and other legislation through Congress is to try to eliminate or restrict the filibuster rule, so only 51 votes are needed, instead of 60. There are major moves going on behind the scenes right now by Pres. Biden and Senate Democrats to make that happen.
As a result, this historic immigration legislation just passed by the House may take a few weeks or months to be brought up in the Senate, in order to give it a chance for success. Stay tuned… You can read the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 by visiting our website at www.americanimmigrationcentral.com and clicking on the enewsletter.
** Contributions to this Column are made by Attorney Caroly Pedersen, Esq. of the American Immigration Law Center – Call 954-382-5378