Congress Must Finally Act on the DREAM Act
December 7, 2022
On December 18, 2010, the US Senate failed to muster enough votes to overcome a filibuster and was unable to enact the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, legislation which would have provided a path to citizenship for over 2 million undocumented youth, popularly known as “Dreamers.” Although the bill garnered only three Republican votes, five Democrats voted against the measure. The disappointment of the DREAM students in the gallery that day was palpable.
Fast forward nearly 12 years and the same young people, now older and many with families of their own, still face the prospect of being deported to a country they do not know. A recent federal appeals court decision declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama administration program designed to protect them from deportation, unlawful. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly consider the legality of the program for the third time in the near future, with legal experts predicting that this time, the high court could agree with the lower court and eliminate the program.
Congress once again has an opportunity to make up for 2010 and pass similar legislation in this year’s lame duck session. Given the court decision and the peril which may await the Dreamers, Congress has a moral obligation to finally enact a law protecting them.
The Dream Act of 2021 could provide the basis for any bipartisan agreement. With Democrats now united on the issue, moderate Republicans should work with them to fashion an acceptable compromise.
The 2021 bill, first introduced in 2001, provides conditional permanent residence for undocumented immigrants who were younger than 18 years of age on their date of entry into the United States, have been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding the bill’s enactment, and meet educational and other requirements specified in the bill. 
The young persons who would benefit from this legislation are well integrated into US society. The Center for Migration Studies of New York produced a study of the profile of Dreamers who may benefit from the legislation, estimating that 2.2 million could have a chance to obtain citizenship.
According to that study, among highly-educated immigrants who would be eligible for conditional permanent residence under the bill, 86 percent speak English well or very well; 95 percent have completed high school; 42 percent have attended college; and nearly 70 percent hold jobs. Forty-five percent have lived in the United States for more than 15 years and are deserving of the opportunity to become US citizens and fully contribute to society. 
Polls have consistently shown a large majority of the American public support the Dream Act and a path to citizenship for Dreamers. In the 2022 midterm elections, the people of Arizona, a swing state, voted to permit Dreamers to access in-state tuition and to become eligible for state financial aid.
With DACA at risk, Congress can no longer stall in protecting these immigrants, who entered the country with their parents and not on their own volition. The Biden administration should make passage of the DREAM Act a priority in this lame duck session, supporting it as an attachment to a must pass measure.
 Dream Act of 2021, S. 264, 117th Cong. (2021-2022). https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/264.
 Kerwin, Donald, José Pacas, and Robert Warren. 2021. Ready to Stay: A Comprehensive Analysis of the US Foreign-Born Populations Eligible for Special Legal Status Programs and for Legalization under Pending Bills. Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) Report. New York, NY: CMS. https://cmsny.org/publications/ready-to-stay-report/.
December 7, 2022