Immigration reform that benefits students and other youths who came to the United States as children has made its way around the U.S. Congress recently, but it remains a dream for many. Youths who arrived here without documentation, or who overstayed a visa, frequently did so while under the care of parents or guardians. Many of them have no memory of their "home" country and do not speak the language. Sending them to a country they do not know strikes a fundamental chord of injustice for many people. As the country moves towards this year's presidential election, this may become an ever-more frequent subject of debate, and more than a few politicians may present proposals. A new proposal from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida offers a possible alternative set of reforms, but it has its critics.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but it did not pass the Senate. It would have given a path to legal permanent residence for people who arrived in the U.S. as minors and who completed a degree at a four-year college or higher, or who served at least four years in the military without dishonorable discharge. The law would therefore encourage undocumented immigrants to attend school or serve in the Armed Forces. Several states now offer in-state tuition to undocumented youths who want to attend state colleges or universities, but those students still have no specific path the legal residence or citizenship.
Senator Rubio touts his proposal as a "conservative alternative to the DREAM Act" and says that it honors two of America's "legacies:" as a "nation of laws" and as a "nation of immigrants." The proposal, according to the Associated Press, would still allow undocumented immigrant youths to attend college or get jobs, but would not give them a specific path to permanent residence or citizenship. Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children would be able to apply for nonimmigrant visas in order to go to school or work. They could also obtain driver's licenses. They would be able to adjust status to that of a permanent resident if they have an independent basis for doing so, such as a job or marriage, but this specific nonimmigrant visa would not give them such a basis.