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Students pin citizenship hopes on DREAM Act

Law could offer path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants


PHOENIX – For many undocumented students, the only realistic hope of becoming legal U.S. residents is Congress passing legislation dubbed the DREAM Act, short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. As proposed last year, the act would offer undocumented students without criminal records a path to citizenship if they complete two years of post-secondary education or military service.

To qualify, students would have to have graduated from a U.S. high school, proven they entered the U.S. before age 16 and and showed they had remained in the United States for at least five years before the act took effect.

But prospects for passage of such legislation are increasingly uncertain with Republicans taking control of the U.S. House. With Democratic majorities, the DREAM Act passed in the House last year but fell five votes short in the Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who sponsored the legislation last year, has said he plans to reintroduce it this session. But as of early May that had yet to happen.

Jeanne Batalova, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., said that the longer Congress takes to pass immigration legislation, the more undocumented students will be graduating from high schools and colleges.

“What we need is a solution that takes into account the pluses and minuses and the benefits and challenges that immigration brings,” she said. “In the meantime, the lives of many undocumented students and their fate is up in the air.”

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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