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House Passage of DREAM Act Renews Hope

By Atty. Allison Aquino

After almost a decade of fighting for justice for undocumented immigrant children in the United States, the House of Representatives finally passed the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act on December 8, 2010.

The proposed law recognizes the unfairness and hardship faced by thousands of young immigrants in their quest for normalcy and an opportunity for an education, military service, and immigration benefits. Understanding that there are thousands of innocent individuals who have been brought to the United States at a young age by their family, the proposed law seeks to remedy their hardships by ultimately providing permanent residency to young individuals who show a commitment to educational development or military service.

In essence, the DREAM Act would allow students to obtain legal conditional resident status if the following requirements are met: (1) entry into the US before the age of 16; (2) has lived in the US for at least 5 years before the enactment of the law; (3) has good moral character; (4) has been admitted to a college or university, or has earned a high school diploma or GED; (5) has never been ordered deported from the US, unless the order was issued when the child was under the age of 16 or has remained in the US under color of law; and (6) must be under age 30 on the date of enactment of the law. If so, the individual would be granted conditional residency for a period of five years.

Within that five-year period as a conditional resident, the individual must either acquire a higher education degree, complete at least 2 years of a bachelor’s or higher degree, or serve at least 2 years in the military. A hardship waiver is available should an individual not be able to accomplish one of the educational or military service requirements. The individual must as well prove that he continues to be a person of good moral character during the conditional residency period. If these requirements are fulfilled, the individual will be granted an extension of their conditional resident status for another five years.

The law would then allow an individual to apply for permanent residency starting one year before the individual’s extended conditional residency is set to expire.

Now that the House of Representatives has passed the DREAM Act, the stage is set for the Senate to vote on the proposed law. The Senate has already shown its commitment to passage of the DREAM Act when it withdrew its own version of the DREAM Act the day after passage by the House. Although the Senate version was slightly more advantageous to immigrants, the political reality is that it would take too long to debate, amend and reconcile with the House version. The Senate is accordingly poised to take a vote on the DREAM Act, which is expected to take place in the next few days.

If passed by the Senate, it is expected that the law would immediately be enacted by President Obama, who issued a statement indicating “I strongly urge the U.S. Senate to also pass the DREAM Act so that I can sign it into law as soon as possible.”

There is considerable hope that Congress is finally seeking to enact this truly humanitarian measure given the failure to reach a comprehensive immigration reform and the need to strengthen our military. It is absolutely vital that all those who believe in this humanitarian legislation contact their Congressional representatives immediately to ensure that this time the DREAM Act becomes a reality. Should the DREAM Act pass and become law, it will significantly assist those young individuals who have been innocently placed into a difficult situation with the opportunities necessary to finally fulfill their dreams.

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For further information, please schedule an appointment with Atty. Allison Aquino or Atty. Richard M. Loew of Aquino & Loew, A Professional Law Corporation, 625 Fair Oaks Avenue, Suite 101, South Pasadena, CA, 91030; (626) 799-3089; info@aquinolaw.net. Please also visit Aquino & Loew at www.aquinolaw.net. Aquino & Loew also handles family law and criminal law matters. Free initial office consultation is available upon appointment.

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