Protecting the DREAM: The Potential Impact of Different Legislative Scenarios for Unauthorized Youth
Congressional efforts to legalize unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children have been pending in Congress since 2001, with the DREAM Act garnering notable bipartisan support over the years. As the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has provided temporary relief from deportation to nearly 800,000 DREAMers, faces a deeply uncertain future, there may be new momentum—and pressure—on Congress to act to grant legal status to a population viewed sympathetically by many on both sides of the political aisle.
A pair of bills introduced in the House and Senate in 2017, largely modeled on earlier versions of the DREAM Act, would offer conditional legal status and eventually legal permanent residence to unauthorized immigrants who entered as children; earn eligibility through completion of educational, professional, and other criteria; have a clean criminal record; and maintain “good moral character.”
MPI researchers find 1.8 million people under the Senate bill unveiled by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and slightly more than 1 million under the House bill introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) would be immediately eligible to earn conditional legal status because they already have the required high school education. Of these, a smaller subset—1.5 million under the Senate bill and 938,000 under the House legislation—would be likely to satisfy the college completion, military enlistment, or other professional criteria to get legal permanent residence (aka a green card).
The fact sheet uses an innovative MPI methodology to assign legal status within Census Bureau data and to study attributes of the unauthorized.