LA County immigrants hope the DREAM Act will bring more residency options

Known as the "melting pot" of the world, the United States is home to millions of immigrants who come here seeking a better life and a chance to live out the American dream. While many of these immigrants are living in the country legally, having a valid visa, many others are living here without proper documentation and face the risk of being deported to their home country. Approximately 11.7 million immigrants are living in the U.S. without this documentation, according to the Pew Research Center it is no surprise that California holds a substantial number of these immigrants because of their border with Mexico. Although federal legislators have been dealing with this issue for decades, the DREAM Act initiative strives to bring new hope to some of those immigrants seeking a more permanent residential status.

What is the DREAM Act?

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors initiative was announced on June 15, and offers an option for children who were brought to the United States from another country before the age of sixteen years old. Instead of facing the fear of deportation and struggling to find a way to make a living in order to stay in the United States, these individuals will be given a conditional residency status if they meet the specific requirements put in place by federal lawmakers.

Who is eligible for the DREAM Act?

Currently, there is estimated to be 1.8 million immigrants within the states who may be eligible or become eligible for the Obama administration's deferred action plan for immigrants. Approximately 539,774 of those immigrants are located in California, making up nearly 33 percent of the population.

The largest population of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries residing within California are from Mexico with 326,250 individuals, followed by other North and Central American countries at 37,210 individuals and Asia with 35,950 people. Those who are eligible must meet the following requirements:

  • Must currently be less than 31 years of age.
  • Entered the country before 16 years of age.
  • Has never received a felony or a significant misdemeanor conviction.
  • Has never been charged with more than three minor misdemeanors.
  • Has lived in the United States for a minimum of five years.
  • Is currently attending school, has served in the military, has earned a GED, or graduated from high school.

Individuals who meet these requirements will be given a conditional status for six years. After that time, they will need to meet another set of criteria, including serving in the military for a minimum of two years or attending college, passing criminal background checks and possessing a good moral character, in order to retain their status.

If you are an immigrant who is seeking permanent status within the United States, it is important to contact an experienced immigration attorney. Whether you face deportation, need a green card or seek naturalization, a Los Angeles County immigrant attorney is essential to walk you through the process.