The path to citizenship for DREAMers

The DREAM Act proposes to grant permanent residency to immigrants that arrived in the U.S. as a minor, are of good moral character, have graduated from a high school in the United States, and have lived in the country for at least five years. These young people, known as DREAMers, can also be eligible for six years of residency if they completed two years at a four-year higher learning institution or completed two years in the military.

As of November 2013, select states have enacted their own versions of the DREAM Act that focus on tuition prices for immigrants and financial aid for state universities. These 14 states are California, Illinois, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, New York, Washington, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Republicans in the House recently released new principles for immigration reform, as they are attempting to pave a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers. DREAMers would be offered the opportunity to stay in the U.S. if they earn a college degree or enlist in the military for longer than two years. Parents of young people eligible for the DREAM Act would have to pass the linguistic, cultural and financial requirements to obtain citizenship along with their children.

Currently, more than 30,000 immigrant nationals serve in the U.S. military, and more than 8,000 permanent-resident immigrants enlist annually. A new program called the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act being proposed by House Republicans seeks to allow those with temporary visas to join the military and earn their citizenship too. Under this plan, the GOP would require undocumented immigrants to pass strict background checks, pay fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and have the ability to support themselves and their families. Those who have been convicted of crimes, or who are gang members or sex offenders would not be eligible for this program. These restrictions may make finding a path to citizenship for those who are not eligible for the DREAM Act more difficult.