House passes new version of Dream Act, giving pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries

DACA/Dreamers rally
Credits: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a new version of the Dream Act to provide permanent resident status and pathway to citizenship for more than two million immigrants.

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2009, which was introduced by Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA), passed with 237-187 votes. Seven Republicans joined 230 Democrats in voting for the legislation, which is moving to the Senate for consideration.

In a statement, Rep. Royball-Allard, said, “Our vote sends a strong, clear message that Dreamers, TPS recipients, and DED beneficiaries are an essential part of modern America.  Their talents and traditions strengthen our communities and our economy.  They contribute $27 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes, and they hold $75 billion in buying power.  It makes no moral, cultural, or economic sense to remove these proud Americans from the land they love.”

On the other hand, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Commented, “After years of callous Republican obstruction, our Democratic House is proud to take this decisive step to honor our American values, and ensure that our determined Dreamers and TPS and DED recipients can continue to bless and strengthen our nation.”

Important details of the new Dream Act

Under the bill, the Depart Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall cancel removal proceedings against young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally also known as Dreamers and for those who qualified for temporary protected status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status.

The bill also authorizes the DHS to grant these groups of immigrants with conditional permanent resident status for ten years. The agency will grant lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to such immigrants if they apply and reach more advanced professional or career milestones related to education, military service or employment history.

The new Dream Act also contains very strict standards to eligibility related to criminal activity or national security. An immigrant is not qualified for relief if he/she:

  • presents a risk to national security
  • has a felony conviction of any kind (excluding State immigration-related offenses)
  • has misdemeanor convictions involving a moral turpitude with sentence of more than six months
  • 2 misdemeanors involving moral turpitude, regardless of sentence
  • 1 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, unless the applicant can demonstrate that he/she was actually a victim
  • More than 2 misdemeanors of any kind, excluding offenses that should not prevent eligibility (i.e., minor traffic offenses, offenses related to immigration status, certain offenses involving cannabis, and non-violent civil disobedience).

Furthermore, the legislation provides the DHS Secretary with the non-delegable discretion to deny an applicant if he/she:

  • pose a significant threat to public safety based on a single conviction (punishable by more than 30 days)
  • poses a significant threat to public safety based on a juvenile delinquency adjudication that resulted in placement in a secure facility
  • directly participated in gang-related offenses, even with no underlying conviction.