Thursday, November 29, 2012

Republicans Offer a More Limited Alternative to DREAM Act

Republican Senators Kyl (R-AZ), Hutchison (R-TX), and McCain (R-AZ) introduced the ACHIEVE Act in Congress on November 27, 2012. The ACHIEVE Act will allow individuals who meet certain criteria to obtain a series of conditional nonimmigrant visas designated as W-1, W-2, W-3.

This act is directed toward "DREAMers", who are young people born outside of the United States but brought here as children. This Republican-backed legislation has several key differences from the DREAM Act:
  • The ACHIEVE Act does not provide a green card to the beneficiaries.  Instead, the act offers a form of “permanent nonimmigrant status.”
  • The ACHIEVE Act restricts eligibility to a more narrow class of individuals than DREAM, requiring entry before age 14 (rather than 16 in the DREAM Act), and before age 29 (rather than 36 or 33 in the DREAM Act).
Some of the eligibility requirements for the initial W-1 visa:
  • Initially entered the United States under the age of 14
  • Under the age of 29 years on the date of enactment (32 years for those who earned a bachelor’s degree/associate’s degree prior to enactment of the Act)
  • Continuous physical residence in the United States during the 5-year period preceding enactment
  • Good moral character since the date of initial entry
  • Has not been convicted of a felony, crime of moral turpitude, or a misdemeanor under Federal or State law punishable by imprisonment of more than 30 days. (Exception exists for traffic violation that does not include alcohol or controlled substances)
  • Does not have a final order of removal (with some exceptions)
  • Earned a high school diploma from a high school in the U.S. or a GED; AND
  • Is enlisted/intending to enlist in the military; Is admitted as a student to an institute of higher education; Has earned a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree; or Has served for a period of at least 4 years in one of the branches of the Armed Forces and was not dishonorably discharged

First Focus has created a chart with a Comparison of ACHIEVE Act and DREAM Act.  While the ACHIEVE Act is more limited and restrictive than the DREAM Act, it still represents a positive step toward legal status for tens of thousands of young people in America.