Both Obama and Senate Plans for Immigration Reform Include Path for DREAMers

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In the past week, a bipartisan group of eight Senators and President Obama each released a separate plan for comprehensive immigration reform. The two plans are very similar, and each includes provisions that would provide DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.

During the announcement of his plan in Las Vegas, President Obama highlighted his administration’s decision last August to defer deportation for DREAMers, undocumented young people who have lived and gone to school in this country for most of their lives and know no other home. Under his and the Senate’s immigration proposals, these students and other undocumented people living in the United States will become eligible to pursue citizenship if they fulfill certain requirements, including paying taxes and fees, passing a background check, and attaining English proficiency. Under the President’s plan, this process will be expedited for DREAMers who have gone to college or served in the military in the United States for a minimum of two years. Under the Senate plan, DREAMers will be subject to less onerous requirements than other undocumented individuals, but the Senators have yet to specify these different requirements.

Under both plans, foreign students who pursue graduate or doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields will be eligible to become permanent residents, encouraging them to stay after graduation to work or start businesses here, rather than abroad.

The Senators hope to pass a bill incorporating these elements by the summer, and President Obama pledged to put forth his own legislation if Congress does not act quickly. The House of Representatives also is rumored to be working on a proposal. Hopefully, Washington has finally realized that these young, hard-working women and men deserve the chance to obtain full U.S. citizenship. As President Obama explained in his announcement, “It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than to earn their way into the American story.”

— Nicole Tortoriello