Within the massive discussion of immigration reform, it can be difficult to keep track of every development. The passage of Senate Bill 744 (S.744) would carry with it implications that would effect standing laws. Two acts are being directly effected by S.744 – The DREAM Act and DACA.
Under S.744 the Dream Act and DACA will provide routes to RPI and green card status. However when compared, individuals pursuing legalization under DACA will experience a less expensive and quicker process.
The DREAM Act effects immigrants who were illegally brought to the U.S. illegally as young children. The DREAM Act granted “deferred action” – a two year reprieve from deportation for individuals under 31 years of age and who meet certain criteria. The specific criteria are:
- The individual must have entered the U.S. before 16 years of age.
- The individual CANNOT have been convicted of a felony OR three other misdemeanors.
- The individual graduated from high school.
- Individuals who have served in the military.
Individuals who met these criteria were dubbed by congress as the “DREAMers”. S.744 would create three different pathways to legalization for undocumented illegal immigrants. One of these pathways is specifically for DREAMers who will go through the process of first seeking Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) and then applying for Green Card status five years after receiving RPI. DREAMers will also be able to apply for citizenship immediately upon receiving green card status.
DACA or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” allows for individuals with deferred action status to apply for employment authorization. But, there is no way to move from deferred action towards lawful permanent resident status or citizenship. The primary difference between DACA and the Dream Act is that unlike the Dream Act, DACA is non-permanent and does not grant legal status.
A substantial benefit for DACA recipients – under S.744, DACA applicants could become RPI without filing a new application. DACA recipients could also potentially acquire green cards by applying under the Dream Act. Another substantial benefit is that legalization under S.744 is expected to be significantly less expensive for DACA recipients as they may be exempt from paying filing fees. Finally, all those who were younger than 16 years of age on their entry date would not be required to pay the $1,000.00 penalty in order to receive RPI status.
Difference between the Dream Act and DACA
Although similar, there are stark differences between those classified under the Dream Act and those classified under DACA. Unlike the DREAMers, recipients of DACA must have resided in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. Also, DACA only applies to individuals who were born on or after June 16, 1981. These provisions mean that the Dream Act is open to far more individuals than DACA. However, the Dream Act requires that individuals have pursued higher education or four years military service; DACA only requires up to a high school education or its equivalent.
If the criteria is met, the more economic and sensible choice for individuals deciding between waiting for legalization or applying for DACA is to pursue DACA.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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