House Approves Latest Version of Dream Act

Bill promises millions of DACA, TPS beneficiaries a path to citizenship

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer June 4, 2019
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More than 2 million undocumented people in the United States would receive legal status and work authorization under the American Dream and Promise Act, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives June 4.

The legislation would provide conditional green cards and employment authorization to immigrants who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children, many of whom are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as current recipients of temporary protected status (TPS) and deferred enforced departure (DED) programs for foreign nationals whose home countries are considered unsafe.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates there are more than 712,000 DACA recipients, mostly from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. As many as 1.8 million people are estimated to be eligible for DACA.

There were more than 417,000 TPS recipients as of December 2018, with the majority coming from El Salvador. Around 4,000 immigrants from Liberia are protected from deportation under DED.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Obtaining U.S. Employment Visas]

The Trump administration rescinded the DACA program in September 2017, although recipients can still renew their status pending ongoing legal challenges. There is a chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case at some point, but the court on June 3 rejected a White House request to fast track the decision.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has canceled TPS protections for immigrants from several countries—those actions have been stayed pending further litigation.

"A regularization of status will come as a great relief for U.S. employers who employ DACA and TPS beneficiaries," said immigration attorney Andrew Greenfield, Fragomen Worldwide managing partner based in the Washington, D.C., office. "In the case of TPS beneficiaries, industries like hospitality, construction and landscaping stand to lose a significant portion of their workforce."

The American Dream and Promise Act would grant conditional permanent residence to individuals who:

  • Entered the U.S. before age 18 and were continuously present in the U.S. for the four years preceding the bill's date of enactment.
  • Have no criminal convictions or separate immigration violations and are not national security threats.
  • Meet an education requirement, such as being admitted to an institution of higher education or earning a high school diploma.

All applicants would have to submit biometric and biographic data and pass national security and law enforcement background checks.

Conditional permanent resident status would last for 10 years and could be extended. Conditional status could be converted to full permanent residency if the individual meets education, military service or work requirements—specifically being employed for at least three years and 75 percent of their work authorization period.

Current DACA recipients who meet the requirements could apply for permanent residency directly, without having to first apply for conditional status.

Immigrants who had TPS or DED status before the Trump administration canceled the programs would be given green cards if they were present in the U.S. for three years before the bill is enacted. Individuals could apply from abroad if they'd been removed because of the program cancellations and had been in the U.S. for at least three years before leaving.

Employers, unions and immigration advocacy groups support the legislation.

"As the country faces a growing skills gap, we must ensure that all workers educated and trained in the United States can contribute their talents to the American economy," the Society for Human Resource Management said in a press release.

SHRM advocated for the bipartisan legislative solution in the House and urges the Senate to pass its own version. "By effectively addressing this important issue now, Congress can build momentum that will lead to solutions for other important challenges, including modernizing our workplace immigration system."

Republicans have voiced support for past versions of the Dream Act, but experts consider it to be a tough sell in the Senate this time because the White House has signaled that Trump will veto the legislation if it reaches him.

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