New Immigration Policy for Dreamers Represents Economic and Humanitarian Victory, Durbin Says

[CHICAGO] – By allowing young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children a chance to earn the ability to live and work in the United States, President Barack Obama has boosted the country’s economic outlook, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today.  Durbin said the talented youth he has long fought to help through the DREAM Act will finally have the opportunity to take their place as valuable, productive members of American society.

“This is a historic humanitarian moment and I personally salute the President for his leadership. This action will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home,” said Durbin.  “It has been 11 years since I first introduced the DREAM Act -- legislation that would allow a select group of immigrant students with real potential to contribute more fully to America. These Dreamers grew up here pledging allegiance to our flag and singing the only national anthem they know. They are Americans in their hearts and minds. President Obama's new immigration policy will make America a stronger nation by giving these talented immigrants the opportunity to live and work without fear in their home country and contribute more fully to our economy.”

Under the new policy, certain young immigrants brought to the country by their parents will receive deferred action, a temporary form of relief from deportation, for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.  Those young people must have come to the United States under the age of sixteen; have lived in the United States continuously for at least the last five years since June 15, 2007; be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED or have been honorably discharged from the military; have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or misdemeanors and not pose a threat to public safety; and be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012.   Application forms and instructions can be found at www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals

“President Obama’s decision to stop the deportation of Dreamers will make our country stronger by giving them the chance to pursue their dreams,” said Durbin, noting that the new federal policy will strengthen the United States by allowing talented Dreamers to join the workforce and contribute their knowledge and skills to the American economy.  Studies have concluded that these talented young people could contribute trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy during their working lives.  “The United States simply cannot allow the great potential in these young people to remain untapped,” Durbin said.

“You grew up in America and have overcome the odds to achieve success,” Durbin told the young undocumented immigrants who attended the DREAM Relief Day ceremony.  “As Dreamers step forward, the debate about immigration reform in America will change forever.  When Americans learn about the Dreamers in our midst – going to school with our children, praying with us in our churches, temples, and mosques, and ready to contribute their talent to getting our economy back on track – support will build for the DREAM Act – and for comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing. Senator Durbin first introduced the DREAM Act in 2001 and has reintroduced the legislation in every Congressional session since.

Two years ago, Senator Durbin and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) asked the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the deportations of DREAM Act students by granting them deferred action. With today’s announcement, the Administration has taken the exact steps the Senators requested in their 2010 letter. A copy of that letter is available here. 

Last year, Durbin and Lugar were joined by 21 additional Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), in urging this change in deportation policy.  A copy of that letter is available here.