American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 Passes House and Awaits Senate Approval on March 25, 2021
There has been much discussion in the press about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants under the Biden administration. While the American Dream and Promise Act was passed by the House of Representatives on March 18, 2021, as of this writing, it has not yet become law. Until a law passes the Senate, it will continue to be a “dream” for many individuals who came to the United States as children.
Pending Legislative Proposals
There are two versions of the Dream Act currently before Congress: the Dream Act of 2021 (S. 264), and a version of the Dream Act that is incorporated into a larger bill, known as the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6). Both bills would provide path to citizenship for Dreamers.
was introduced on February 4, 2021 in the Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL)and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The two senators introduced identical legislation in the previous two sessions of Congress.
To qualify for the Dream Act, eligible individuals must generally be considered “inadmissible” or “deportable” under immigration law, or be in temporary protected status. Applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before they were 18 years old and have lived in the U.S. continuously since arriving, at least four years prior to the date of enactment of the legislation. They must also meet an educational requirement by having been admitted to an institution of higher education, or by having earned or be pursuing a high school diploma or equivalent.
If approved, applicants would be granted conditional permanent resident (CPR) status, which would be valid for eight years, and subject to revocation if the individual no longer meets the requirements. Those individuals who have been granted, and are still eligible for DACA, would automatically qualify for CPR status.
Individuals could apply to have conditions removed after graduating from or completing two years in a post-secondary education program, serving honorably in the military for two years, or working for three years. Many DACA recipients will likely have satisfied these requirements by the time of the bill’s enactment and be eligible to immediately remove conditions.
However, again, bipartisanship differences are threatening the adoption of this bill due to the US-Mexico border crisis under President Biden.
Several GOP senators remain interested in helping the Dreamer population of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, but they’re increasingly reluctant to do so amid a wave of cross-border migration.
“Many of us support giving a path to citizenship” to that population of mostly younger immigrants, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the only Republican to support Biden’s Health and Human Services nominee on Thursday. “But now the border is such a disaster that I don’t see how you can do just a bill to deal with Dreamers.”
2. H.R.6 – American Dream and Promise Act of 2021
was introduced on March 3, 2021 in the House by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). It would also provide a path to citizenship to beneficiaries of two humanitarian programs: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
On March 18, 2021, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (ADPA, H.R. 6) was passed by the House of Representatives, and is set to appear before the Senate this Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Under this bill, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall provide conditional permanent resident status for 10 years to a qualifying alien who entered the United States as a minor and:
is deportable or inadmissible,
has deferred enforced departure (DED) status or temporary protected status (TPS), or
is the child of certain classes of nonimmigrants.
The bill imposes various qualifying requirements, such as the alien being continuously physically present in the United States since January 1, 2021, passing a background check, and being enrolled in or having completed certain educational programs.
DHS shall remove the conditions placed on Permanent Resident status granted under this bill if the alien applies and meets certain requirements, such as completing certain programs at an educational institution, serving in the military, or being employed.
Furthermore, DHS and DOJ shall cancel the removal of certain aliens who had TPS, were eligible for TPS, or were eligible for DED status on certain dates. Such an alien shall receive Permanent Resident status upon meeting certain requirements and applying for such status within three years of this bill’s enactment.
DHS may not use information from applications filed under this bill or for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status for immigration enforcement purposes.
This bill also repeals a restriction that bars a state from providing higher education benefits to undocumented aliens unless those benefits are available to all U.S. nationals without regard to residency in the state.
History of the DREAM Act
The first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in 2001. In part because of the publicity around that bill, young undocumented immigrants have been referred to as “Dreamers.” Over the last 20 years, at least 11 versions of the Dream Act have been introduced in Congress. While the various versions of the bill have contained some key differences, they all would have provided a pathway to legal status for undocumented people who came to this country as children. Some versions have garnered as many as 48 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and 152 in the House of Representatives.
Despite bipartisan support for each iteration of the bill, none have become law. To date, the 2010 bill came closest to full passage when it passed the House but fell just five votes short of the 60 needed to proceed in the Senate.
Beneficiaries of the DREAM Act
The Migration Policy Institute estimates that approximately 2 million Dreamers would qualify for conditional permanent resident status under S. 264. 1.7 million of these are likely to obtain the qualifications necessary for the removal of the conditions on this status. Almost 1 million more DREAMERS could become eligible for conditional permanent resident status if they enroll in school.
Under H.R. 6, three million DREAMERS meet the age at entry and educational requirements for conditional permanent resident status. However, under 2.5 million of are likely to obtain the qualifications necessary for the removal of the conditions on this status. However, 1.1 million more Dreamers could become eligible for conditional permanent resident status if they enroll in school. Another 400,000 people meet the criteria to adjust to legal permanent residence based on their eligibility for TPS or DED.