DREAM Act hits close to home for many San Antonians

Illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children have been hoping for Congress to pass the DREAM Act since it was first drafted over 10 years ago. DREAMers, who name themselves after the bill, are now trying to get votes from Congress to pass the DREAM Act. This movement has been led by campaigns such as the “I am a DREAM Voter” movement by United We Dream and “Dream Act Now,” which is active at UTSA. In addition to Congress, the groups also reach out to students to inform them on the issue. 

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) was first introduced to the Senate in 2001. Its purpose is to give illegal immigrants who were younger than 35 years old, have no criminal background, and have lived in the country for five years before passage of the bill conditional permanent residency if they graduate from U.S. high schools; or complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning. If they meet the requirements, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period. Within this six-year period, they may qualify for permanent residency, giving them a path to become U.S. citizens.

Even though the DREAM Act has yet to pass in Congress, President Obama made a “Deferred Action” policy in June that authorizes a non-U.S. citizen to temporarily remain in the U.S. “It is an amnesty to those immigrants, but does not change current immigration law,” said Maquel Marquez of UTSA’s Sociology Department.

With this Deferred Action, illegal aliens are able to apply for a two-year renewable work permit. The requirements for this deferred action are similar to the DREAM Act requirements, but even if the immigrant meets all of the requirements, the applicant must wait for approval from the Department of Homeland Security.

In San Antonio, where there is a large community of Latinos, the effect has impacted school administration offices in particular. Transcripts requests for foreign students in Northside, Northeast and Edgewood ISD have all dramatically increased in 2012. In Northside ISD alone, officials received 642 transcript requests in August from graduates, whereas only 413 were requested in the same month in 2011, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

However, Marquez does not see Obama’s executive order as a permanent solution. “This deferred action is a band aid for current immigration policy,” she said.