20 November 2010

Are you ready to DREAM?

Come on a little journey with me...you've worked really hard at four-year university and just been awarded a degree. You can't wait to put the skills and knowledge you gained over the past years into action, but there's one problem: you were brought to the U.S. as a child, have no legal status, and cannot legally accept employment.

This is the scenario the DREAM Act is meant to address. Under current immigration law, "you" have no way of correcting your undocumented status. To refresh your memory, the DREAM Act is a piece of legislation that would allow young people to get legal status in the U.S. if they were brought to the U.S. as children, went to high school in the U.S., and either go to college or serve in the military in the U.S.

Those who would qualify for the DREAM Act are productive young people who want to contribute to this country, either by getting the right to work legally and use the knowledge they gained in American universities or by serving in the U.S. armed forces. They have been brought to the U.S. without any of the malicious intent that laws generally seek to punish, and it is pointless to continue punishing these young people who simply want to contribute to the country that they consider their own.

Fox News recently reported that...gasp...individuals may qualify for the DREAM Act who have...gasp...criminal records. The law requires individuals to have "good moral character," which is a standard consistent across immigration law. When it wrote the INA (Immigration and Naturalization Act), Congress did not explicitly define good moral character. Congress did, however, give some guidance, preventing a finding of good moral character for individuals who have been convicted of some particularly serious crimes. The rest of the good moral character determination is left to the discretion of the adjudicator. So, yes, it is possible that someone could qualify for the DREAM Act while having a criminal record, but those crimes would not be able to be the particularly serious ones Congress has already identified as disqualifying the good moral character finding. Moreover, because applicants under the DREAM Act have to have been accepted to a college, university, or military branch, there is actually an added layer of character evaluation for DREAM Act applicants than those applying for other forms of immigration relief.

I'm bringing up the DREAM Act again not only because I was annoyed at the Fox News article but also because the timing is ripe for this piece of legislation to finally be passed by Congress. So, I encourage our readers in the United States to take a moment to show your support for this humane and practical piece of legislation by adding your name to this petition. If you're willing to go a little farther, please contact your Congressional representatives. And, if you have questions or concerns, I'd be happy to help you resolve them.

As always, this is not meant to be legal advice but rather merely a bit of education.

No comments: