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Four Options Congress Could Take to Help ‘Dreamers’

  • VOA News

A protester holds up a sign during a rally supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the White House, in Washington, Sept. 4, 2017.

Lawmakers have six months to come up with a plan for the more than 800,000 people who have temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

There are already four prominent bills aimed at addressing the issue, providing a blueprint for what Congress may decide. House Speaker Paul Ryan has vowed not to hold a vote on any immigration bill without the support of at least half of the Republican members of the House. Democrats say they will press Republicans to bring up legislation for a vote soon.

DREAM Act

The DREAM Act, introduced in July by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has bipartisan support, with six Democratic Senators and three Republicans behind it.

The DREAM Act would, like the RAC Act, allow applicants to become conditional permanent residents, and would remove those conditions after certain requirements are met.

Criteria:

  • Were younger than 18 when they entered the United States
  • Been continuously present in the U.S. for the past four years
  • Have not persecuted, or helped to persecute, anyone on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion
  • Have not been convicted of a crime
  • Have been admitted to an institution of higher learning or has earned a high school diploma or GED
  • Submited biometric data, agreesd to a medical exam and a background check
  • Registered for selective service
  • For conditional residents to become permanent residents, they must::
  • Maintain their residence in the U.S.
  • Finish their educational degree or complete at least two years in good standing on a program for college degree or higher, or
  • Finish two years in military service and, if discharged, have been discharged honorably
  • Have been employed for at least three years and at least 75 percent of the time they had a valid employment authorization

The BRIDGE Act

Republican Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado is sponsoring the BRIDGE Act (companion to DREAM Act) and has threatened to force a vote. The bill has 25 co-sponsors -- 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

BRIDGE -- an acronym for "Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy" -- is a measure that would expire after three years, making it the most limited of the legislative options already on the table.

Criteria:

  • Longtime residents who came to the U.S. as children
  • Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
  • Pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least three years, or serve in the military
  • Pass security and law enforcement background checks and pay a reasonable application fee
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the English language and a knowledge of United States history
  • Have not committed a felony or other serious crimes, and do not pose a threat to the United States.

Recognizing America's Children Act

Republican House member Carlos Curbelo of Florida introduced the Recognizing America's Children Act earlier this year. The bill, which has 17 co-sponsors, all Republicans, offers "conditional" permanent residency for people who meet the following criteria. After five years, they could apply for standard green cards and permanent citizenship.

Criteria:

  • Arrived in the United States before January 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger
  • Been in the U.S. for at least five years
  • Earned a high school diploma or equivalent, been admitted to a U.S. institute of higher learning, or have a valid work authorization
  • A person of "good moral character"
  • Have not been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in detention
  • Must submit biometric data
  • Undergo a background check and medical exam
  • Registers for selective service

American Hope Act

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois, in July introduced the American Hope Act, which has 112 Democrats signed on as co-sponsors.

Gutierrez's plan requires that applicants have entered the United States before age 18. It does not include work, education, or military requirements. Of the four bills, the American Hope Act provides the fastest path to citizenship. Eligible applicants can apply for conditional permanent residency for as long as eight years, and can apply for permanent resident status three years achieving the conditional step. After five years, they can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Criteria:

  • Entered the U.S. before age 18
  • Have not been convicted of certain crimes
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