Report: DREAM Act would leave out many potential residents

Thousands of Colorado children and adults would be eligible for permanent legal residency status under Dream Act legislation awaiting introduction in Congress this year. However, a recent report found that of the 2.1 million people eligible in the country, considerably fewer would be able to surmount the barriers to education and military service that are necessary to take part in the program.

According to a report put out by the Migration Policy Institute, only 38 percent, or 825,000, of the 2.1 million eligible would likely become DREAM Act beneficiaries because of factors such as low educational attainment, poverty and lack of English language skills.

Three-quarters of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries reside in 10 states, with 46,000 of those in Colorado. California leads the nation with 553,000 potential beneficiaries, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and Arizona whose resident make up 60 percent of total potential beneficiaries. Colorado ranks low on the totem pole at 10th in the high-population class, but is still significantly ahead the other 40 states.

The DREAM Act initially would grant individuals 5-35 years old who were brought into the country before the age of 16 eligibility for conditional status. That would allow them to apply for permanent residency after six years if a number of conditions are met.

In addition to age requirements, residents illegally in the country must attain a GED or high school diploma and be in the country for at least five years prior to the legislation’s enactment to qualify for the probationary conditional status. During that period, individuals must attain either two years of college in a bachelor’s degree program or serve in the military in order to qualify to apply for permanent status.

“All in all, our analysis shows that a significant number of unauthorized immigrant youth would likely be able to meet the law’s tough requirements for permanent legal status,” said one of the study’s authors, Margie McHugh. “The investments they would be required to make in their education or military service on the path to permanent legal status would ensure that they are well integrated into U.S. society and bring important skills and training to the U.S. workforce.”

However, the report showed the 61 percent of individuals, who in many cases have known no other life than the one in the United States, would likely not make the cut as life circumstances inherent in migrant populations curtailed their ability to either join the military or go to college.

According to the analysis, enactment of the DREAM Act would:

Immediately make 726,000 unauthorized young adults who meet the legislation’s age, duration of U.S. residency and age at arrival requirements eligible for conditional legal status (with roughly 114,000 of them already eligible for permanent legal status after the six-year wait because they have at least an associate’s degree). Allow 934,000 children under 18 to age into conditional-status eligibility in the future, provided they earn a U.S. high school diploma or GED. Extend the possibility of conditional status, provided certain educational milestones are achieved, to another 489,000 unauthorized immigrants between ages 18-34 who meet the legislation’s age and residency requirements but lack a high school diploma or GED.

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