DREAM Act Definition

Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, popularly known as the DREAM Act is a legislative proposal drafted by both Republicans and Democrats. It was created to help undocumented immigrants in the United States, who meet certain requirements, have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship, first by being granted conditional residency and then permanent residency.

Several forms of this bill have been introduced by Members of Congress in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members in the House passed one such bill on December 8, 2010.

On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would stop deporting young undocumented individuals who met certain requirements previously proposed under the DREAM ACT. Two months later, on August 15, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications under the Obama administration’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DREAM Act Legislative History

The federal DREAM ACT was introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001. It was a plan for joint immigration and education reform aimed at granting young undocumented immigrants access to both higher education, and citizenship. The Act would grant these students legal residence if they met certain requirements like attending college or serve in the military. While this legislation has not yet passed, it is the product of much deliberation and debate over the issue of immigration and Immigration Policies in the United States. Some states such as Georgia and Alabama have adopted strict immigration laws in order to keep undocumented immigrants out, others have looked for ways to address the needs of immigrants. The proposal for the federal DREAM ACT was followed quickly by the California DREAM Act, a state initiative aimed at providing a pathway for young undocumented immigrants in the state of California.

The Act was re-introduced in both chambers of Congress on March 26, 2009, during the 111th Congress. To date, 128 representatives and 39 senators co-sponsored the bill.

The DREAM Act was reintroduced in the Senate on May 11, 2011, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Some Republicans who had previously supported the bill objected that such a bill should not be passed without first increasing immigration enforcement. President Obama supported the bill as one of his efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system.

In July 2011, the state of California enacted the California DREAM Act, giving undocumented immigrant students access to private college scholarships for state schools. In August, the state of Illinois authorized a privately funded scholarship plan for children of immigrants both legal and undocumented.

California DREAM Act

The California DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a package of California state laws. It allows undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they arrived in the U.S. with no proper visas/immigration documentation who have attended school on a regular basis and otherwise meet in-state tuition and GPA requirements to apply for student financial aid benefits. This legislation was authored by California State Senator Gil Cedillo. Each year about 25,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in California.

In 2011, the California Dream Act was divided into two bills: AB130 and AB131. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB130 on July 25, 2011, and Brown signed AB131 on October 8, 2011.

AB 130 allows students who meet AB 540 criteria to apply for non-state funded scholarships for colleges and universities. AB 131 allows students who meet AB 540 criteria to apply for state-funded financial aid.

Schwarzenegger administration

In 2006, the California DREAM Act was proposed in the form of SB 160. Under SB 160, students who were eligible for in-state tuition would have access to public financial assistance for higher education at California State Colleges and Universities. Also, those students would have been given a fee waiver for California Community Colleges. It passed both houses but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2007, another version of the bill was proposed in the form of SB 1. This bill offered similar fee waivers for high school graduates who met non-resident in-state tuition requirements. Again, the bill passed both houses of the California state legislature. Schwarzenegger vetoed it again on 14 October 2007 citing cost concerns.

In 2008, SB 1301 was vetoed by the Governor. And in 2009, SB 160 was held in Senate Appropriations Committee.

In 2010 Gil Cedillo introduced the bill as SB 1460. It passed the State Senate on 3 June 2010 and the State Assembly on 20 August 2010. It was passed by both houses on 31 August 2010.

Brown administration

On January 11, 2011 Assemblyman Cedillo reintroduced the legislation as two separate bills, AB130, and AB131. AB 130 was signed into law by Jerry Brown on July 25, 2011, granting undocumented students access to an estimated $88 million in private financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants. AB 131, which allows undocumented students who meet criteria for in-state tuition to apply for financial aid, was signed by Brown on October 8.

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