The Necessity of the DREAM Act
In August of 2001, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the first iteration of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (or, the DREAM Act). It was intended to be a companion bill of sorts to his party-mate Senator Chris Cannon’s Student Adjustment Act of 2001, which had been introduced a few months before. The Student Adjustment Act of 2001 was meant to amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 so that undocumented immigrants would be eligible for higher education benefits such as in-state tuition in the same way as documented residents of the state in which they lived, and to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to give permanent resident status to middle or high school students who grew up in the United States, which would qualify them for both Federal and State assistance funds for higher education (Student Adjustment Act, 2001). Hatch’s version of the bill was introduced to Senate and the House of Representatives over and over in the years to come (it was reintroduced in the 108th, 109th, and the 110th Congress) and was tacked on as an amendment to many other bills related to immigration at the time, including the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Acts of 2006 and 2007.
In 2007, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin made a move to add the DREAM Act onto the 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill – an action which generated much controversy at the time. Opponents of the DREAM Act as it was written at the time were under the impression that the bill made it mandatory for all states to give in-state tuition to DREAM Act beneficiaries unilaterally. In reality, the DREAM Act was written only allow them to do this if they chose. In-state tuition to DREAM Act beneficiaries was not a hard requirement, but the DREAM Act would allow states to extend in-state tuition to undocumented students (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, 2007). In light of the issues raised by opponents, Senator Durbin instead made an attempt to amend a retooled version of the DREAM act to the bill, which removed all mention of in-state tuition and instituted an age cap (30 years) for beneficiaries. In spite of the changes and support from the United States Military (who viewed it as a way to boost recruitment in light of its promise to give resident status to military service people), the amendment was not brought to a vote.
The DREAM Act continued to be reintroduced by both Democratic and Republican senators in the years to come, with major revisions in 2009 (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, 2009) and in 2010 (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, 2010) which further defined eligibility requirements and actual benefits. It was struck down again and again until in June of 2012, President Barack Obama gave the executive order to halt deportation of undocumented people who meet DREAM Act criteria. With this memorandum,...