A Republican version of the DREAM ActBy Lourdes Santos Tancinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ON JUNE 15, President Barack Obama gave temporary reprieve to young undocumented immigrants by deferring action on their cases. As of Nov. 15, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received 298,834 applications for deferred action. The option is temporary in nature but applicants look forward to a clear pathway to citizenship with the passage of the DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors).
The Dream Act has yet to get Senate approval. However, on Nov. 27, Republican Senators John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Kyl introduced the ACHIEVE Act, which is their party’s version of the Democrat’s DREAM Act.
The ACHIEVE Act, which stands for Assisting Children’s Helping them Improve their Educational Values for Employment Act, proposes another way of obtaining legal status for undocumented young adults.
How different is this new bill from the DREAM Act?
The Dream Act aims to help undocumented young adults obtain legal immigrant status if the following criteria are met: (1) they must have come to the US before they turned 16, (2) be under the age of 35; (3) have lived in the US for at least five years; (4) graduated from high school or passed an equivalency examination; (5) have good moral character and (6) attended college or enlisted in the military for two years.
The ACHIEVE Act, on the other hand, would give temporary status to young adults less than 28 years old who entered the country before the age of 14 to allow them to finish college or enter the military service. A new “W” nonimmigrant visa is being introduced in this Act. As a first step, it provides a W1 visa, which would be granted for six years to qualified undocumented youth. This W1 visa would allow them to attend college, serve in the military and work legally.
When the W1 visa expires, the young adult will be granted a four-year W2 conditional nonimmigrant visa—if there is proof of attainment of a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree with two and half years of work or four years of military service.
The W2 visa is still a conditional nonresident visa and after it expires, the young adult may apply for a third nonimmigrant W3 visa. This is valid for five years with a four year renewal option until the holder of this visa finds his or her own way of applying for an immigrant visa through other means—either through an employment-based petition or family-based petition.
If the W visa holders do not get their own petitions, they will forever be W visa holders—as long as they maintain the eligibility requirements.
Comparatively, the DREAM Act sets a path to citizenship in six years. Conditional residence can be lifted after six years if the individual graduates from a two-year vocational college, completes two years of higher education degree or serves in the military for two years. He or she may then apply for US citizenship.
In a few weeks, the 112th Congress will close session and no action on the DREAM Act is in sight. The motives of the sponsors in introducing the ACHIEVE Act during the lame duck session of the Congress is apparently not to get the bill passed. The proponents of this Act, Senator Kyl and Senator Hutchinson, who are retiring this year, have been quoted as saying their hope is that their version of immigration reform could be reintroduced in the next Congress, even in their absence.
The Philippines is one of the top 10 countries whose nationals applied for the deferred action. Mexico is number one on the list while the Philippines is number 10. There is no figure on how many more DREAMers are out there who have not yet applied for deferred action. But majority of those we have assisted so far hope to obtain permanent solutions to their immigrant status rather than to avail of the temporary alternative being proposed by Republicans. They would rather be DREAMers than ACHIEVErs.
(Tancinco may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 8877177 or 7211963 or visit her website at www.tancinco.com)