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Immigration Reform Proposals Include Relief for New Jersey DREAMers

Rutgers_Newark_campus_003.jpgImmigration reform has been a contentious issue at the federal level for some time. Some state legislatures are also considering measures that would assist immigrants living in the U.S. and those who want to move here. One group of immigrants that has been the subject of much controversy, and whose members have often been very vocal in their advocacy of their rights, is the DREAMers. Named for a bill that has failed to pass in Congress several times, DREAMers are children and young adults who are undocumented immigrants, and who arrived in the U.S. with parents or others while they were children. While the White House has instituted a system to allow them temporary relief from deportation, the future of this group remains uncertain. A bill pending in the New Jersey Legislature would give DREAMers relief by allowing them to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first introduced in Congress in 2001. DREAMers are generally defined as undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and who have resided in the U.S. continuously for at least five years. Individuals who have graduated high school or obtained a GED, or who have served honorably in the U.S. military, would be able to apply for conditional permanent residence. A version of the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives in 2010, but failed in the Senate. Many DREAMers have lived in the U.S. for as long as they can remember, and have few or no memories or ties to their “home” countries. The DREAM Act is therefore seen by many as a matter of basic fairness.

In 2012, the White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which mirrors some of the provisions of the DREAM Act. Eligibility for DACA is very similar to the DREAM Act, but it can only provide a deferral of immigration enforcement. DHS does not have authority to confer any form of actual permanent residence without an act of Congress. DACA allows DREAMers to stay in the U.S. and obtain work authorization, but future administrations are not bound by the program.

The New Jersey Assembly is currently considering A3509, known as the Tuition Equity for DREAMers (TED) Act. Currently, DREAMers who have lived in New Jersey long enough to meet most legal requirements for residency must still pay out-of-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities. TED, which was introduced on December 6, 2012 and is currently pending in the Higher Education Committee, would allow those DREAMers to pay in-state tuition rates.

The U.S. immigration system can be overwhelming, with a complicated set of laws, rules, and processes for both employment- and family-based visas. Samuel C. Berger is an immigration attorney who represents immigrants and prospective immigrants who live in the New York and New Jersey areas, or who wish to make New York or New Jersey their home. We help families petition on behalf of immigrant loved ones, and we help businesses petition for their immigrant employees. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our legal team, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Lawmakers Introduce Immigration Reform Bill in Congress, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2013
Bipartisan Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Includes New Employment-Based Green Card Opportunities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 7, 2013
New White House Immigration Policy Offers Opportunities and Risks for Young Undocumented Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2012
Photo credit: By Arthur Paxton [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.