What is the Dream Act?

shutterstock_59374651-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1The recently enacted Dream Act by the US House of Representatives, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that is intended to allow the children of undocumented aliens or those brought to the US as children to not be deported, to be eligible for work and to apply for and receive tuition assistance at American universities and colleges.

Surveys and studies indicate that over 65,000 undocumented aliens graduate from US high schools and that some 1.4 million children and young adults might benefit from DACA.

DACA has not yet passed the US Senate but some states, like California, have passed their own versions of the act. President Obama did sign an executive order allowing the Department of Homeland Security to begin granting deferred action and EAD or work permits to undocumented aliens brought to the US minors by their parents while under the age of 16.

Eligibility Requirements

DACA would allow a two-year reprieve from deportation for those under the age of 31 who arrived in the US before the age of 16.

You must also have lived continuously in the US for five years and not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor. In addition, you qualify if you are still in high school, have a high school diploma or GED, or served in the military.

The act was designed to enable these children, many of whom have lived in the US all their lives and consider themselves Americans in all respects, to enjoy all the educational benefits accorded those who are in the US legally. To receive student aid or government tuition assistance, you must present proof of legal residency.

The legislation would presumably encourage these individuals to remain in school, to further their education and to significantly contribute to the US economy by becoming a skilled worker such as a teacher, nurse, doctor or entrepreneur.

Other States

A number of other states have passed their own versions of the Dream Act by allowing certain categories of undocumented aliens to qualify for in-state tuition. The following states have passed legislation that is similar to the federal act:

  • Texas
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Utah
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland


In California you could qualify for community college fee waivers. If you do live in any of these states, consult with an immigration attorney to see if you qualify and what steps you need to take to receive tuition assistance and to work legally.