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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program Offers Temporary Solutions to a Permanent Issue

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is no substitute for immigration reform, but it’s helped many undocumented immigrants in the United States access opportunities and stay deportation through two-year visas.

To qualify, immigrants must be between the ages of 15 and 30, have arrived illegally when they were children. Additionally they must either be in school, have graduated high school or earned their GED, or be military veterans. Also, they must not have been convicted of any serious crimes such as violence, drunk driving, or drug-related offenses, or at least three misdemeanors. The Immigration Policy Center estimated that around 950,000 immigrants across the country qualified for this program.

The program was created by President Obama in June of 2012. Since then, over 565,000 young undocumented immigrants in the United States have received two-year visas. However, this is not a permanent solution because the program is only in effect at the discretion of the president, and this current administration is on its last leg. There is no guarantee the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will survive past this presidency.

A more permanent solution on the national level passed in the Senate in June of 2013 and is currently stalled on the House floor. It would provide avenues to citizenship for the roughly 12 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country, but it would also double the size of Border Patrol and enhance surveillance technology on the 2,000-mile Mexican border.

On the state and local levels, some states have granted access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and do not require social security numbers on state university and college applications. These are life-changing provisions, opening up opportunities for mobility, education, and an all around expanded life.

Source: Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “Temporary visa opens up world for young immigrant,” USA Today. September 24th, 2013. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/24/temporary-visa-opportunities-young-immigrant/2859321/

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New Jersey Governor Christie Agrees to A Modified DREAM Act

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, first proposed to the federal legislature in 2001, has been adapted and adopted by many US States since then, although it has yet to be federally approved. The idea is to create access to residency through educational opportunities and to make education more affordable for, in the words of New Jersey State Senate president Stephen Sweeney, “Young people who are Americans in everything but on paper.”

The state of New Jersey legislature and Governor Chris Christie recently stuck a deal to pass their version of this bill that would allow undocumented immigrants who attended New Jersey high schools for at least three years to pay lower, in-state tuition rates for state colleges and universities.

This deal was struck as a compromise. Governor Christie agreed to sign the DREAM Act into law on the condition that the provision to grant financial aid to undocumented immigrants was removed. While agreeing to grant undocumented immigrants who completed high school in New Jersey, he refused to grant financial aid. During his campaign, he stated that he promised to work for tuition equality, but didn’t go into details about what tuition equality meant to him. Christie publicly fought New Jersey’s democratically-controlled legislature over the provision of this bill.

In response to criticism about misleading the Hispanic population in his recent reelection where he won 51% of the Hispanic vote, Christie explained, “What I was trying to do all along was get to what I promised, which was tuition equality. I didn’t promise tuition assistance grants and financial aid […] This is what compromise looks like.”

On a federal level, the DREAM Act has weighed in heavily in the last two presidential elections. John McCain’s support for the bill in 2008 proved to be a liability for the Republican Party, in the 2012 election Mitt Romney promised to veto it if elected, and Obama showed some support by issuing an executive order to circumvent congress and stay deportation of illegal immigrants under the age of 30 brought into the United States under the age of 16. Although most of the decisive action on the DREAM Act and its permutations has been on the state level, it promises to be an issue again in the 2016 election.

Adapted from: Timm, Jane C. “Christie’s DREAM: ‘This is what compromise looks like,’” MSNBC. December 20, 2013. http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/chris-christie-dream-act

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