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DREAM Act of 2017 Would Offer a Pathway to Permanent Residency for DACA Recipients

21 Aug

United States Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently reintroduced the DREAM Act as Senate Bill 1615, “Dream Act of 2017.”  This bill would authorize permanent residency for millions of children and young adults who were brought to the United States unlawfully before the age of 18.

The Dream Act of 2017 provides for the cancellation of removal proceedings and the grant of conditional lawful permanent resident status to qualifying recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program.  Generally, benefits would be available to any DACA recipient who:

  1. Has been continuously present in the United States for four years;
  2. Was younger than 18 years of age at the time of initial entry;
  3. Is not inadmissible based on any of the following grounds: criminal, security and terrorism, smuggling, student visa abuse, ineligibility for citizenship, polygamy, international child abduction, participating in persecution, or unlawful voting;
  4. Has not been convicted of any federal or state offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year, or of three (3) or more federal or state offenses for which the person was convicted on different dates and imprisoned for an aggregate of 90 days or more; and,
  5. Has been admitted to an institution of higher education, has earned a high school diploma or GED, or is pursuing a GED.

Conditional permanent residency may be granted for an initial period of eight (8) years. During this time if the foreign national violates any of the conditions upon which conditional permanent residency was initially granted, specifically the inadmissibility, criminal conviction, and persecution criteria indicated above, conditional residency may be terminated and the foreign national required to depart the United States.

Conditions and Confidentiality

The grant of conditional permanent residency would be subject to the foreign national being required to undergo a medical examination and submit biometric and biographic data with which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must conduct “security and law enforcement background checks” to determine if there is “any criminal, national security, or other factor that would render the person ineligible.” Expunged convictions may be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and certain inadmissibility bars may be waived under certain circumstances. The bill authorizes a government filing fee commensurate with the cost of processing the application.

The Act currently includes a provision generally requiring confidentiality of these applications filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from disclosure to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other Federal enforcement agency, which addresses the prospective chilling effect on applicants fearful of applying based on a perception that a failed application may result in enforcement action taken against them.  There are four (4) “Limited Exception[s]” to the general assurance of confidentiality, specifically: “(1) for assistance in consideration of an application for permanent resident status on a conditional basis; (2) to identify or prevent fraudulent claims; (3) for national security purposes; or (4) for the investigation or prosecution of any felony not related to immigration status.”

Removal of Conditions If the individual complies with these conditions and maintains residency in the United States, the conditions may be removed and the individual may be granted full Lawful Permanent Resident status once the foreign national has:

  1. Acquired a degree from a U.S. institution of higher education; or,
  2. Completed at least two (2) years in good standing for a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S.; or,
  3. Completed two (2) years of military service and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge; or,
  4. Been employed for a total cumulative period of three (3) years, at least 75% of that time with employment authorization.

It is unclear at this time whether foreign nationals who already meet these criteria would be able to apply for full permanent residency without an initial period of conditional permanent residency.

Foster will continue to track proposed legislation impacting U.S. immigration laws and will provide information on any new developments in future Foster Immigration Updates© or via the Foster website at www.fosterglobal.com.