An (Im)perfect DREAM

December 6, 2010





All of your calls, visits and support have worked! Thank you so much for all your hard work over the past few weeks. We are almost there- We now need to make one final push to make sure this important piece of legislation passes in the Senate as well.

This morning the Senate voted to table consideration of their own bill in order to take up the House version. We need you more than ever to urge your Senators to “Pass the DREAM Act”!

We can make history! Reach your Senators by dialing: 866-996-5161


The day is almost upon us. Thousands of students, families and activists across the country have been waiting nine years for the passage of The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill that would help thousands of committed students and military officers legalize their status.

In the last few weeks calls for the introduction and passage of such legislation have reached a fever pitch with endorsements from the White House, the DOD, and DHS among others. Last week Senator Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. 3992 and a House companion bill is expected any day.

However, for many DREAM supporters the release of the long-awaited Senate bill last week dampened the spirits of some and outraged others.  

Amnesty International has historically supported the DREAM Act because it provided access to the exercise of significant human rights including the right to education, the right to family life and unity, and due process instead of deportation.  While the introduction of S. 3992 was encouraging, we’re concerned that the over-burdensome framework, including harsh grounds of inadmissibility and deportability undermine the human rights the Dream Act has historically been introduced to remedy.

A few of our concerns:

  • S. 3992 in its current form provides student immigrants with 10 years to complete the requirements toward lawful permanent residency.  While Amnesty International USA recognizes that this is a generous opportunity to complete studies and military service, the organization is also mindful that 10 years is also a significant period for young people, particularly when they will not have access to in-state tuition or a place to finally call home during that period.   
  • During this time applicants are barred from a broad range of public benefits as well as the new federal tax credits in health reform that would make private health insurance more affordable.  Amnesty International believes that everyone in the United States, despite legal status, has the human right to access adequate and affordable health care.
  • Applicants also have the responsibility of providing proof of good moral character, a term that remains undefined and arbitrary, from the original date of entry into the U.S. instead of the date of application.  The Dream Act requirements should not be so burdensome that many student immigrants are ultimately unable to benefit from it. It is Amnesty International’s position that a reasonable and generous waiver should exist so that applicants have the opportunity to waive ineligibility when the underlying reason for it is not cause for concern and/or a denial would present a hardship to the applicant or his/her family.
  • The bill does not repeal the federal law limiting how states can provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, so states will continue to face the penalty of providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students if they wish to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students who graduate from their high schools.  Education is a right worthy of protection itself. It is also an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. All children, without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of their status or the status of their parents, have a right to education. General Comment No. 13 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights establishes that states are obliged to ensure that education is accessible to everyone, without discrimination, within the jurisdiction of the state.  Accessibility includes non-discrimination, physical accessibility, and economic accessibility.
  • The applicant must apply for conditional status within one year after obtaining a high school degree or GED, admission to an institution of higher education, or the bill’s date of enactment. Because there will be students who are unaware of this requirement and otherwise eligible, a waiver should exist that excuses late filing when a student can demonstrate reasonable grounds for the delay.
  • The bill creates a deadline for conditional residents to apply for lawful permanent residency.  This application must be during the period beginning 1 year before and ending on either the date that is 10 years after the date of the granting of conditional nonimmigrant status or any other expiration date of the conditional status.  While requiring young people to file another application 9 years after the first may be acceptable, it is Amnesty International USA’s position that this deadline also be subject to a waiver on reasonable grounds for those otherwise eligible.

Despite the concerns raised by the above provisions, Amnesty International USA continues to support and advocate for the legislation because it still promotes the protection and fulfillment of a variety of human rights. We urge the House of Representatives to adopt legislation that takes these concerns into consideration. Even an imperfect DREAM Act remains an incredible opportunity to fulfill the human rights of young immigrants in the United States.