The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a bipartisan bill that has failed in Congress time and again since its initial proposal in 2001. The basic tenets of the Act would provide conditional temporary residency to certain illegal immigrants if the individuals are of good moral character, have graduated from U.S. high schools, have arrived in the United States as minors and have lived in the country continuously for at least five years.
On June 15th, President Barack Obama announced he will implement part of the DREAM Act. The administration is going use its prosecutorial discretion to not prosecute those who might be eligible under the Act. Instead, USCIS will focus on the removal of foreign nationals (“illegal immigrants”) that pose a greater threat (e.g., those with a criminal background).
Candidates for the new initiative must meet the following criteria:
1) Have entered the U.S. before age 16 and be less than 30 years old
2) Have been present in the U.S. for five years as of June 15, 2012
3) Have maintained continuous residence in the United States
4) Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes
5) Be currently in school, have graduated from high school, have a GED, or have enlisted in the military
Qualifying individuals may be granted deferred action (i.e., will not be removed) by ICE or USCIS and could become eligible for work authorization cards. Although, this is not technically the same as “legal status” or a path to legal status or permanent residency, employers might feel a significant impact because it will expand the pool of available younger workers. In particular, businesses in the hospitality, restaurant, retail and agricultural industries might see increases in eligible workers.
The official press release from DHS can be found here http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/20120612-napolitano-announces-deferred-action-process-for-young-people.shtm
Jackson Lewis will continue to follow developments on this initiative and its effect on employers.