After nine years of waiting, supporters of a small branch of immigration reform believe the time has come for change.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act during its lame-duck session, said Ariel Ruiz, a Whitman College student and Latino rights activist.
Last month, the Senate of the Associated Students of Whitman College passed a resolution in support and recognition of the DREAM Act.
The DREAM Act helps students seek legal permanent residency if they finish two years of college or serve in the armed forces. It applies specifically to youths who have grown up in the U.S. as undocumented residents.
To qualify, students would have had to have lived in the U.S. at least five years, have graduated from a high school and have a clean legal record while demonstrating good moral character.
President Barack Obama has in the past voiced support for the resolution and recently reasserted the legislation's benefits.
Supporters of the measure argue that children raised and educated in the U.S. should not be denied access to higher education or careers because of their legal status.
Critics believe the bill is loosely worded to encourage abuse of the amnesty; it rewards law-breakers; and it could potentially open the door for more illegal immigration.
Immigrants who choose to live in the U.S. illegally often do so for a better chance at life. Many often bring their children with them.
Any child living in the U.S. is afforded a public education, regardless of immigration status. But higher education is different.
Undocumented students who wish to attend college or serve in the military face obstacles because of their immigration status. Although Washington is one of a few states that extends in-state tuition for such youths, therefore opening the door to higher education, there are few alternatives for such students to become legal residents.
The DREAM Act was first proposed in 2001 as a way to allow promising youths who are also longtime residents the chance to further their educations and eventually join the work force, legally.
Legal residency is not the same as citizenship. Legal, or permanent residents, hold green cards and typically wait five years before they can seek citizenship.