Proposed DACA Legislation: The American Dream and Promise Act
President Biden is expected to offer relief to the so-called “DACA Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. What form this relief will take is unclear, however. He could undertake more sweeping reform with Congressional support, and one of the options for Congress would be to pass the American Dream and Promise Act. Even without this, Biden could incorporate some of its provisions into an executive order.
The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (the “Act”), not to be confused with the older DREAM Act, was first introduced in March 2019 with over 200 cosponsors. The bill offers protection from deportation and eventual green cards to DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and people subject to Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The bill passed the House with seven Republican defectors but never passed the Senate.
Protections for Dreamers
The Act would create a new “conditional permanent resident” immigration status, which would be valid for up to 10 years. It would allow the nation’s 700,00 DACA recipients, plus 1.6 million DACA-eligible immigrants, to remain in the US, work, and even travel abroad and return to the US during the validity of the visa.
Conditional Permanent Residence
To qualify for the new “conditional permanent resident” status, you would be required to meet the following requirements:
Prove that you arrived in the US before you turned 18;
Prove that you lived in the US for a continuous period of at least four years before the date that the Act is enacted (whenever that is);
Prove that you have been admitted to a college, university, or another institute of higher education; earned a high school diploma, GED, or high school equivalency in the United States; or are currently earning a high school diploma, GED, or high school equivalency in the United States;
Submit to and pass background checks after submitting your biometric data;
Register for the Selective Service (subject to age and gender restrictions); and
Pay the appropriate application fee.
Grounds for denial or revocation
Under certain circumstances, your application could be denied or even revoked after it is initially accepted:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could deny your application if it believes that you are a public menace or that you participated in gang activity during the past 5 years. You can appeal a rejection to the court, and the DHS would have to show that its rejection was based on “clear and convincing evidence.”
Even after you receive conditional permanent residence, it can be revoked if you commit a serious crime, or if fraud is found in your application.
Unconditional Permanent Residence
The status of conditional permanent resident, because it is only valid for 10 years, is not as secure as the status of an unconditional permanent resident (the status that most green card holders receive). Nevertheless, once you obtain conditional permanent residence, your next step towards unconditional permanent residency, and potentially future US citizenship, would be to:
Obtain a degree from a university or college, or complete at least four semesters of a bachelor’s degree (or higher) program in the US;
Complete at least two years of US military service with an honorable discharge; OR
Work for at least three years (certain restrictions apply).
Once you have met the above-described requirement under the education, military, or employment track, you must meet the following requirements in order to obtain unconditional permanent residency:
You must live in the United States continuously (short vacations are allowed);
You must demonstrate rudimentary English language reading, writing, and speaking abilities;
You must demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of US history, political principles, and government;
You must demonstrate good character;
Your criminal record must be clean, or at the very least free from both felony convictions and multiple misdemeanor convictions; and
You must pay the appropriate application fee.
If some time passes between the time you apply for conditional permanent residency and the time you apply for unconditional permanent residency, you may be required to cooperate with another background check. If you qualify for both conditional and unconditional permanent residency status at the same time, however, you can skip over the conditional permanent residence and apply directly for unconditional permanent residence.
Effect on Ongoing Deportation Proceedings
What would happen under the Act if you were already in deportation proceedings at the time it was passed? Well, as long as you turned out to be eligible for at least conditional permanent residence status, your deportation proceedings would be canceled. They would also be canceled even if you did not graduate from or even enroll in high school, as long as the reason for this omission is that you are too young to attend high school.
Protection for TPS and DED Recipients
The United States hosts over 300,000 people from designated countries such as Honduras, Nepal, and Somalia in Temporary Protected Status. It also hosts about 3,600 Liberian nationals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). These statuses provide relief from deportation due to harsh conditions within the beneficiaries’ home countries.
Under the Act, under either status you will be able to obtain permanent residence under the following conditions:
Prove three years of continuous residency in the US immediately prior to the passage of the Act;
Prove that you were eligible for your status by the cutoff dates specified in the Act (initially September 25, 2016, for TPS or September 28, 2016, for DED, but likely to be changed before the Act is actually passed);
Meet certain other requirements that are standard for permanent residence applicants (lack of a serious criminal record, for example); and
Pay the appropriate application fee.
The Act would not only offer you permanent residence, it would also cancel any deportation proceedings you might be undergoing. The Act also opens the door for other ways that future TPS beneficiaries might qualify for permanent residences, such as marrying a US citizen. It would even allow certain former DED beneficiaries who had been deported or left the US under voluntary departure to seek permanent residence.