The DREAM Act begins in earnest this week as one of the most sweeping changes in immigration policy in decades took effect Wednesday.
The act will allow close to 1.7 million young immigrants apply for the temporary right to live and work in the US without the risk of deportation, the Washington Post reported. The DREAM Act begins a new era of citizenship opportunities for this group, which has waited for years for Congress to formally pass it.
The DREAM Act focuses on immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents as children, and, though technically living here illegally, they never chose to break any laws. Immigration advocacy groups were surprised earlier this week when officials posted applications forms online for the first immigrants to begin the path to citizenship.
As the DREAM Act begins, these groups are now planning workshops to help hundreds of immigrants learn if they qualify and how to apply, the Washington Post reported. Families are now scrambling to gather the necessary school records and utility bills to begin the process.
“People are very, very anxious to file, so we’ve been telling them to over-prepare,” said Emid Gonzalez, manager of legal services at Casa de Maryland, which put on a workshop this week for immigrants. “The phone has been ringing off the hook.”
The DREAM Act begins with a focus on immigrants age 15 to 31 who came to the country before they were 16 and have lived in the US continuously for at least the last five years. They must also be free of serious criminal convictions and have graduated high school or be enrolled or have served in the US military.
Photo by Dreamer movement (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons