Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DREAM Act at the Iowa Caucuses

While the DREAM Act has been active in legislation for a decade, I suspect many Iowans don't know what the DREAM Act is. I did not--until I moved to the border five years ago. Now I've met many excellent young leaders whose potential and contributions to society are blocked until the DREAM Act is passed. Their situation hurts me personally; but, worse, it damages our nation.

So voter education about the DREAM Act will continue on the grassroots, precinct level tonight at the Iowa caucuses. Thanks to a handy proposal guide, from the National Immigration Law Center, it's easy for Iowa citizens to promote the DREAM Act in their local precinct caucus. Activists will submit proposals that endorse the DREAM Act for their fellow-citizens' consideration and approval. I received this from an Iowa activist-friend. [I'm registered to vote in Iowa, but can't participate in the caucus since I'm not there.]

The guide, which follows, succinctly explains the DREAM Act and what it will accomplish. It's available for use at both major political party caucuses. From my cursory observation of the flier, the only difference between the two proposals is in the title ["Republican" vs. "Democrat"]. I publish the Republican version here:

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Proposal for 2012 Iowa Republican Platform: Immigration Dream Act

Pass the DREAM Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

The DREAM Act would grant "conditional nonimmigrant status" to a select group of currently unauthorized young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

The DREAM Act would enact two major changes in current law:

The DREAM Act would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent legal status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military; and

• The DREAM Act would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.

Background: An estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented immigrant children graduate from U. S. high schools only to find themselves without any options to better themselves. They have the potential to be future doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, and entrepreneurs, but they experience unique hurdles to live up to their fullest potential in this country. Through no fault of their own, their lack of legal citizenship status often prevents them from attending college or working legally. They are not eligible to: get driver's license, register to vote, attend college in some states, qualify for in-state tuition in states that allow attendance, apply for financial aid for college, or even apply for a job.

The Fall 2011 enrollment of the State of Iowa students that were categorized as "Hispanic/Latino, of any race" was 993 which is roughly 3 percent of the total student population. The census indicated that 9 percent of Iowa youth under 18 were Hispanic (Iowa State Daily, 9/20/11).

The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the United States and have graduated from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our current immigration laws. If the DREAM Act were to pass, it would allow undocumented immigrant youth in Iowa and across the nation to qualify for in-state tuition, federal loans, Pell Grants and scholarships, and eligibility for the armed services. This is would provide a larger percentage of our nation’s youth a means to obtain legal residency. If enacted, the DREAM Act would have a life-changing impact on the students who qualify, dramatically increasing their average future earnings—and consequently the amount of taxes they would pay—while significantly reducing criminal justice and social services costs to taxpayers.

KEY FEATURES OF THE DREAM ACT OF 2011

■ Path to legal residency: Who would qualify?

Under the DREAM Act, most students who came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger at least five years before the date of the bill’s enactment and who have maintained good moral character since entering the U.S. would qualify for conditional permanent resident status upon acceptance to college, graduation from a U.S. high school, or being awarded a GED in the U.S. Students would not qualify for this relief if they had committed crimes, were a security risk, or were inadmissible or removable on certain other grounds.

■ Conditional permanent resident status

Conditional permanent resident status would be similar to lawful permanent resident status, except that it would be awarded for a limited duration—six years under normal circumstances—instead of indefinitely.

Students with conditional permanent resident status would be able to work, drive, go to school, and otherwise participate normally in day-to-day activities on the same terms as other Americans, except that generally they would not be able to travel abroad for lengthy periods and they would not be eligible for Pell Grants or certain other federal financial aid grants. They would, however, be eligible for federal work study and student loans, and states would not be restricted from providing their own financial aid to these students. Time spent by young people in conditional permanent resident status would count towards the residency requirements for naturalization.

■ Requirements to lift the condition and obtain regular lawful permanent resident status
At the end of the conditional period, unrestricted lawful permanent resident status would be granted if, during the conditional period, the immigrant had maintained good moral character, avoided lengthy trips abroad, and met at least one of the following criteria:

• Graduated from a two-year college or certain vocational colleges, or studied for at least two years toward a B.A. or higher degree, or

• Served in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years.

■ In-state tuition: Restore state option

The DREAM Act would also repeal section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which currently discourages states from providing in-state tuition or other higher education benefits without regard to immigration status. Under section 505, states that provide a higher education benefit based on residency to undocumented immigrants must provide the same benefit to U.S. citizens in the same circumstances, regardless of their state of residence.

Since section 505 became law, twelve states have enacted laws permitting anyone, including undocumented immigrants, who attended and graduated from high school in the state to pay the in-state rate at public colleges and universities. The twelve states are California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. These states all pay the section 505 penalty by providing the same in-state discount rate to current residents of other states who previously went to high school and graduated in the state. The DREAM Act would repeal this penalty. This would not require states to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, but rather would restore this decision to the states without encumbrance.

Source: National Immigration Law Center

5 comments:

RealityZone said...

When the Xtian evangelicals of Iowa hear "Dream Act".
They go looking for a corn field and start building another baseball field.
Build it and they will come.

The Dream Act will be passed once the Republocrats feel that they need the Hispanic vote to stay in power.

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