The American Dream and Promise Act has Some Great News

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 is Great News for Immigrants

the american dream and promise act

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 has a lot of changes that involve dreamers, TPS holders, and people with Deferred Enforced Departure, and could give them protection and opportunity to obtain legal status in the US.

We are going to talk about this and a bit more on this article.


What is the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021?

On March 3, 2021, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Democrat from California, introduced the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 along with 146 original cosponsors. A previous version of this bill was passed in the US House of Representatives back in June 2019, with a vote of 237 versus 187, with 7 Republicans joining all 230 democrats who supported this legislation. 

Some of the main benefits this bill is going to offer is that it will provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status or TPS holders, and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the US —upon meeting some requirements of course.


Who can receive the bill’s protection?

Reviewing some numbers about this act, you can see that it can:

  • Provide protection for ss many as 2.3 million dreamers who were brought to America as children.
  • Allow the possibility of staying in the US for nearly 700,000 Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA recipients.
  • Give almost 400,000 TPS and DED holders the legal opportunity to remain in the country, along with another 170,000 “legal dreamers”, those children of certain temporary workers who aged out of derivative status from their parents’ visas

These numbers are really some great news, mostly for kids and children of immigrants, so I think it’s important to go into a bit more detail on what it means for each group and what requirements they need to benefit from this bill.


What protection does the bill provide for Dreamers?

Let’s talk about dreamers and what are the conditions for them to get permanent residence<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> in the US under this bill.

First of all, what the American Dream and Promise Act would create is a “conditional permanent resident” status that is going to be valid for up to 10 years, protecting Dreamers (including DACA recipients) from deportation, allowing them to work, and travel inside and outside the US legally.


What are the requirements to get conditional permanent residence under this bill?

To qualify for this “conditional permanent resident” status, Dreamers would need to meet the following requirements.

  1. You need to establish that you came to the US before the age of 18 and have continuously lived here on or before January 1st, 2021. 
  2. You need to demonstrate that you have earned a high school diploma or GED, or are currently in the process of doing so.
  3. You need to pass government and background security checks, submit biometric and biographic data, and register for the Selective Service (if applicable).


Things to Keep in Mind for Dreamers Seeking Conditional Permanent Status

There’re a few things to have in mind when you apply for or get conditional permanent residence under this bill.

A secondary review process can get your application denied.

For instance, there could be a secondary review process that would allow the DHS to provisionally deny an application if the Secretary determines “based on clear and convincing evidence” that the individual is a public safety concern or participated in gang activities within the preceding five years .


Recipients can lose their conditional permanent resident status.

And also take into consideration that recipients of this can lose their status at any time if they commit a serious crime or fail to meet the other requirements set forth in the bill, so even though someone could get the permanent resident status, there are still some rules and laws recipients would need to follow, or could risk losing it.


There are several grounds for disqualification.

People can be label as unqualified under any of several grounds. For example:

  • Criminal, security and terrorism;
  • Smuggling;
  • Participated in persecution;
  • Student visa abuse;
  • Polygamy;
  • International child abduction;
  • Unlawful voting; or
  • If they are a former citizen who renounced citizenship to avoid taxation.


The bill can pause deportation proceedings.

Another item that could impact Dreamers under this bill is that it can pause the deportation proceedings if they are eligible for “conditional permanent resident” status. It would also prevent deportation proceedings for young Dreamers under the age of 18 if they meet the requirements for “conditional permanent resident status” except that they are not yet enrolled in high school or an equivalent.


Can I Apply for Lawful Permanent Residence?

We talked about how Dreamers can apply for Conditional Permanent Status under this bill, but that’s not the only legal status you can apply for. The new bill also gives immigrants the option to apply for the Lawful Permanent Residence, or like you surely know it, the Green Card.


How long is a conditional permanent resident green card validity?

Before we go on, let me just clarify that even though both statuses will grant you a green card, the conditional permanent status green card is only valid for a period of 2 years and cannot be renewed.


How do I apply for a green card as a Dreamer?

If you are a Dreamer under the Conditional Permanent Status, you can apply to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) as soon as you complete one of the following three tracks:

  1. You need to graduate from a college or university, or complete at least two years of a bachelor’s or higher degree program in the U.S. (education track).
  2. You need to complete at least two years of honorable military service (military track).
  3. You have worked for a period totaling at least three years and, while having valid employment authorization, have worked at least 75 percent of the time that they had such authorization. Periods in which individuals were enrolled in school without working while having valid employment authorization would not count against them (worker track).


What are the other Dreamer provisions?

There are other provisions that you, as a Dreamer, might want to take into consideration: 


Is there protection for TPS Holders and DED Recipients?

Ok, so far, we’ve talked about:

  • What this new bill means to Dreamers;
  • What the requirements are to apply for a green card;
  • What considerations Dreamers need to have in mind before applying.

Now it’s time to talk about TPS holders and DED recipients.


What is a TPS holder?

A TPS, or Temporary Protection Status, is a protection granted to individuals of certain countries experiencing problems that make it difficult or unsafe for their nationals to be deported there. A country might be designated for TPS for one of three reasons:

  • An ongoing armed conflict,
  • An environmental disaster, or
  • Due to extraordinary and temporary conditions.


What is a DED recipient?

A Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED, (formerly Extended Voluntary Departure) allows certain individuals from designated countries and regions facing political or civic conflict or natural disaster to stay in the United States.

In the past, citizens from China, El Salvador, and Haiti were able to apply for a DED status. But at the moment, only Libya and Venezuela qualify for DED. In the particular case of Venezuela, they also qualify for TPS, which is better.


How does this bill affect TPS holders and DED recipients?

Now, how does the new American Dream and Promise Act impact TPS holders and individuals with DED? The main benefit is that they could apply for an LPR status if they meet the following requirements: 

  1. The first one is that the need to establish they have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least three years before the bill’s enactment.
  2. They would also need to demonstrate they were eligible for or had TPS on September 17, 2017, or had DED as of January 20, 2021.
  3. The last requirement is to apply within three years of the bill’s enactment and meet the admissibility requirements for LPRs.


Things to Keep in Mind for TPS and DED applicants 

The bill would protect TPS holders and TPS-eligible individuals from all the countries I mentioned earlier, but it would not provide additional relief to those benefiting from the March 2021 grants of TPS to individuals from Venezuela and Burma. 

The bill would cancel deportation proceedings for TPS holders and individuals with DED if they are eligible for LPR status under the bill’s protections.

The bill would clarify that under current law, an individual with TPS is considered inspected and admitted into the U.S. This provision would permit future TPS recipients to adjust to LPR status under certain circumstances, including when they marry a U.S. citizen, or if they have a US citizen child over 21 years old.

The bill would permit TPS holders and TPS-eligible individuals who were deported or who voluntarily departed the U.S. on or after September 17, 2017 to apply for LPR status if they meet certain requirements, including:

  1. Having lived in the U.S. continuously for at least three years,
  2. Having been deported solely because they were present in the U.S. after the expiration of their TPS status, or
  3. In the case of a voluntary departure, departed because of the DHS Secretary’s decision to end TPS designation for their country.


Are there other provision I should take into consideration?

Just as with Dreamers, there are also some provisions for TPS and DED applicants that they must take into consideration:

  • The American Dream and Promise Act would prevent DHS from deporting an individual who appears to be eligible for the bill’s protections or has a pending application. It also would require that persons subject to removal are provided a reasonable opportunity to apply if they request an opportunity to apply or otherwise appear prima facie eligible for relief under the bill.
  • The bill would create a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grant program for nonprofit organizations to screen and assist individuals applying for “conditional permanent resident” status or LPR status under the bill.
  • The bill would allow individuals with pending applications to receive employment authorization and to apply for advance parole.


President Biden comments on The American Dream and Promise Act

On May 14th, 2021, President Biden hosted a meeting with a group of “Dreamers” at the White House for a discussion about the importance of the DACA program.

The group of six “Dreamers,” a reference to the DREAM Act proposals in Congress that would offer DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, met with Biden for about 45 minutes.  A White House readout of the meeting highlighted the president’s political goals and his support for a new pathway to citizenship:

“President Biden reiterated his support for Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential immigrant workers,” the White House said in a statement. “The President and the Dreamers also discussed the continued need for immigration reform and the White House’s strong support for the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, two bills that have already passed the House with bipartisan support and are awaiting action in the Senate.”


The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Since these two bills seem to be very related, let’s talk a bit about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

This act seeks to reform the process by which temporary foreign workers migrate to the U.S. to work in agriculture. The bill has support from both sides of the aisle and from both farmworker and grower constituencies, and it’s estimated that it would create a system for more than 1 million undocumented farm workers to apply for legal status.

There are three key platforms on which this bill stands on:

  1. It would create a pathway to legalization for current unauthorized agricultural workers, including an eventual option to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR). 
  2. It would reform and modernize the existing H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program. 
  3. It would require all agriculture employers to implement a reformed “E-Verify” program to ensure their workers are authorized.

This bill was originally introduced in 2019, by representatives Zoe Lofgren, Democrat from California, and Dan Newhouse, Republican from Washington, and it was re-introduced on March 3, 2021.

There are quite a few interesting facts about this bill that I would like to talk about really quick.

It would create a new temporary worker visa program.

First of all, with the update to this act it would create a new temporary worker visa program for current unauthorized farmworkers called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status. CAW visas would be renewable and five-and-a-half years in length, more than quintupling the length of the existing H-2A nonimmigrant farm worker visa. Due to this, the number of CAW visas would be uncapped, which can definitely be a very good part of this.


It would create a green carp option for agricultural workers.

This bill would create a green card option for long-term agriculture workers. Foreign workers would be able to apply for a green card after successfully maintaining either eight years of CAW status or four years of CAW status plus ten years of previous agricultural work experience. They would also have to make restitution by paying a fine and any back taxes owed.


The new bill comes with a wage reform and protections.

With this new bill also comes a wage reform. The bill stabilizes worker wages and makes wage growth more predictable. 

Another thing that caught my attention and is worth noticing is that this bill will provide protections for employers, employees, and dependents, beneficiating the whole industry.


How does this benefit employees and employers?

For employers the benefits include that they would not face penalties for past hires of unauthorized migrants who are applying for CAW or H-2A status or for providing employment records or any other necessary documentation to assist with a CAW or green card application. They would also not be penalized for continuing to employ an unauthorized worker who intends to apply for status under the bill.

For employees, all workers would receive interim proof of employment authorization upon filing for a CAW visa, and any eligible worker would be protected from removal proceedings while his or her application is pending. CAW visa holders would not be eligible for public benefits, tax benefits, or health care subsidies.

And lastly, for dependents: Children and spouses of CAW visa holders would be allowed to adjust to principal status or any other legal immigration status should they qualify. The bill also protects children from “aging out” of dependency status after turning 21 and suddenly losing authorization and the ability to renew or adjust their status. The bill would allow them to use their age at the time of the initial CAW status application in any future status adjudications up to ten years after the initial application.


Final Thoughts

The American Citizenship Act of 2021 could definitely provide large-scale immigration reform. But it will be difficult to pass such a comprehensive bill.

The last time such a comprehensive reform made it through Congress was in 1986, during the Reagan Administration, although another, smaller bill passed in 1990, during the Bush Administration. Given that outlook, the administration has developed a “multiple trains” strategy – prioritizing certain pieces to move through Congress. 

Since day one of his presidency, Joe Biden has placed immigration on top of his agenda. After hitting the 100-day mark in his presidency, he had taken 94 executive actions on immigration, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute – more than triple enacted by Trump in the same time frame.

These actions are not only substantive but also represent Biden’s commitment to reverse a lot of President Trump’s hard-line policies on immigration. And even though some of his actions have encountered a mixed response from his advocates, mentioning that he has been keeping his campaign promises, there are others that say he has let some of unfulfilled promises and given some U-turns in others. 

But all in all, the panorama seems to be improving, changes are being made and proposed, that could impact in a good way the lives of millions of immigrants in the US, giving them more options to achieve legal status in the country and help them follow their dreams and sleep a bit better at night.

If you need help with your immigration journey, whether it’s applying for a visa, getting a green card, or going through the process of becoming a US citizen, our experienced New Jersey immigration attorney Andres Mejer can give you the legal assistance you need to make your immigration dreams come true. Call us today to schedule a consultation with us.

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