The DREAMers keep on DREAMing!


As I See It

Candidates to the US presidency have been expounding on immigration issues in their campaign trail and in presidential debates being held over television. One candidate is proposing to build a wall between the US and Mexico border; a couple are expounding on banning illegal immigrants; and others are defining steps towards US citizenship for illegal residents.

I enjoy hearing and watching their views on various issues but what residents may want to hear, though, is a thorough discussion on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM ACT) as a roadway toward citizenship. The DREAMERS are anxious to hear that. So, far, we need to hear from the Presidential candidates in both parties a detailed discussion of their positions on this issue.

You may know it already, but the DREAM Act is an American legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for illegal immigrants in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and, upon meeting these conditions will qualify them for further qualifications for permanent residency. The beneficiaries to this act are being referred to as the DREAMERS… young children who came to the US with illegal parents.

The bill was first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001 by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch and has since been reintroduced several times with various versions but has failed to pass up to now. The DREAMers are somewhat worried that it might be put to oblivion again and will never see a light of day. It has been 15 years now since it was first introduced in the Senate and Congress has been reviewing, revising, and initiating more versions, engaging in discussions… until now.

Okay, for the DREAMers to qualify, the act provides for a conditional resident status, and they must have proof that they entered the United States before the age of 16 and must have continuously lived in the country for at least 5 years. They must have graduated from a United States high school or obtained a GED. Also, said persons must have demonstrated good moral character and must pass criminal background checks and reviews.

These are preconditions to a road to citizenship under the Act which the DREAMers kept on dreaming to have in the future. After having obtained and held conditional resident status, the government under the ACT may grant permanent residency if the following requirements have been met in a period of six years. The next set of requirements for permanent residency are: that they have attended an institution of higher learning or served in the United States military for at least two years and if discharged, have received an honorable discharge; pass another series of background checks; and continue to demonstrate good moral character

If these requirements are not fulfilled, the conditional resident will lose their legal status and be subject to deportation… and will have to wake up for a failed opportunity to be a citizen under this Act.

Proponents and supporters of the proposed legislation argue that it will not create an amnesty program and would produce a variety of social and economic benefits. Critics, on the other hand, contend that it would reward undocumented individuals and encourage more of it, inviting fraud and shielding gang members from deportation. This has been the bone of contentions by both proponents during Congress deliberations.

It may take a while to be noticed but it’s high time the candidates for president need to address the issue and give some hope to the DREAMers to keep on dreaming… at least.

This time, it’s not only the immigrant children under the DREAM ACT who were brought in to the US by their undocumented parents who will be DREAMing, but all those eligible Philippine nationals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Actually, DACA is a spin off of the Dream Act.

The preliminary findings from the National unDACAmented Research Project, according to Roberto G. Gonzalez, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Veronica Terriquiz, University of Southern California, in their published article in 2013, How DACA is impacting the lives of those who are now DACAmented, also provides another options for a segment of undocumented immigrants, is worth reviewing.

DACA, unlike the DREAM Act, however, has no proviso towards legalization and citizenship. As Congress and the presidential candidates continue to debate on immigration reform, August 15th marks the one-year anniversary of the DACA program. The program provides an opportunity for a portion of the undocumented immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation. It also allows them to apply for work permits, and increase their opportunities for economic and social incorporation. The authors pointed out that the research summary shows preliminary findings on the impact that DACA has had on some of the young people who have received it.

As early as June of 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would accept requests for DACA applications. This is an initiative designed to temporarily suspend the deportation of young people residing unlawfully in the U.S. who were brought to the United States as children who met certain education requirements and generally match the criteria established under legislative proposals like the DREAM Act. The implementation of the program is being carefully monitored by the American Immigration Council.

There are roughly 1.8 million immigrants in the United States who might be, or might become, eligible for the Obama Administration’s “deferred action” initiative for unauthorized youth brought to this country as children. This initiative, announced on June 15, offers a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.

I know some kababayans are preparing their necessary papers already and getting their lawyers to put their applications in order so they can avail of the program.

Each year, according to a published article in 2010, estimates approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools. While many hope to pursue higher education, join the military, or enter the workforce, their lack of legal status places those dreams in jeopardy and exposes them to deportation.

This was corroborated by Roberto G. Gonzalez, PhD, in his published article in 2010. He said, “Each year, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant students graduate from American high schools and embark on uncertain futures. Their inability to legally work and receive financial aid stalls, detours, and derails their educational and economic trajectories.

Another avenue undocumented immigrants are hoping to explore for their temporary stay in the country is for those affected by typhoon Haiyan under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The Philippines have a pending request for TPS due to typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) in December 2013. Many have been lobbying for its passage since beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization.

While there is no road for naturalization, unlike the DREAM ACT which may likely provide a pathway for young undocumented immigrants already in the US, beneficiaries are assured of their stay in the US for quite a number of years, if approved.

There are about 4 million Filipino immigrants living in the U.S. today. More than half a million of them –authorized and unauthorized– could benefit from Temporary Protected Status if the U.S. government decides to move forward with it.

I don’t know how fast the approval would be, since previous requests made by Guatemala (as early as June 2010) and Pakistan (as early as January 2011) have yet to be acted upon. So, we need a concerted effort to move the authorities to approve the TPS request the earliest possible time.

Once approved, we need to remind all eligible beneficiaries to register on specified registration periods. Otherwise, the immigrant reverts to unlawful status upon the termination of that TPS designation.

The youth continue to dream and they keep on DREAMing that one day, they will be legitimized under the various government programs, whether the DREAM Act, DACA, or TPS, whichever comes first.