The Dream Act, DACA, and Other Policies Designed to Protect Dreamers

With the rescission of the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) initiative, there will be renewed pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation known as the Dream Act to protect young immigrants who are vulnerable to deportation. This fact sheet provides an overview of the Dream Act and other similar legislative proposals, explains changes made to DACA on September 5, 2017, and provides information about policies at the state level that support Dreamers.

History of the Dream Act

The first version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in 2001. As a result, young undocumented immigrants have since been called Dreamers. Over the last 16 years, numerous versions of the Dream Act have been introduced, all of which would have provided a pathway to legal status for undocumented youth who came to this country as children. Some versions have garnered as many as 48 co-sponsors in the Senate and 152 in the House.

Despite bipartisan support for each bill, none have become law. The bill came closest to passage in 2010 when the House of Representatives passed the bill and the Senate came five votes short of the 60 Senators needed to proceed to vote on the bill.

Current Federal Legislative Proposals

The most recent versions of the Dream Act were introduced in July 2017, in the Senate by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and in the House by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

In the House of Representatives, members have also introduced legislative proposals that would address undocumented youth, but are variations on the original Dream Act. For example, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) proposed the Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, which has a more restrictive path to legalization than the Dream Act bill currently pending in the Senate and House. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the American Hope Act, which has a more generous path to legalization than any of the Dream Act bills. In addition, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced a proposal, Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act (BRIDGE Act), that would not create a permanent legal status for Dreamers, but instead would provide deferred action from deportation to Dreamers for only three years.

While some are more generous and others more restrictive, each of these legislative proposals in some way mimics the original Dream Act legislation.

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