Summary of Reconciliation’s Dreamer, TPS, and Higher Ed Provisions
September 14, 2021
The 117th Congress is currently considering legislation that would modernize our nation’s immigration laws through the creation of a roadmap to citizenship and expansion of access to higher education for the segments of the nation’s undocumented population. This legislation–contained in the FY 2022 Budget Reconciliation Resolution–must pass both the House and Senate and then be signed by the President to become law. On the House side, two committees, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Education and Labor, released and marked up legislation. Below, we provide a summary of the key provisions likely to end up in the final reconciliation resolution.
I. House Judiciary Committee Provisions
A. Roadmap to Citizenship. The legislative text would establish a roadmap to citizenship for: (a) Dreamers; (b) Temporary Protected Status (TPS) & Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders; (c) essential workers; and (d) farmworkers. To apply, individuals would have to pay a $1,500 surcharge in addition to processing and filing fees (likely around $500 to $750 per application). Finally, unlike previous legislation, this bill provides a direct roadmap to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status (also known as a “green card”), as opposed to previous legislation that usually required some sort of interim legal status.
DREAMers. The roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers would include undocumented Dreamers, DACA recipients, and documented Dreamers (e.g. those with some sort of legal status or visa); and provide a stay of removal for children enrolled in pre-school or K-12 until they qualify for relief under the bill. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they:
- Were continuously physically present in the United States since January 1, 2021;
- Were 18 years or younger upon entry; and
ONE of the following:
- Attained a degree from a higher education institution or postsecondary credential from an area career and technical education school or completed of at least two years of a qualifying program;
- Consistently earned income during the three years before applying;
- Are enrolled in a higher education institution of a postsecondary program and currently employed or participating in an internship, apprenticeship or similar program; OR
- Honorably served in the uniformed services.
Of note, under existing law, travel with advance parole does not interrupt continuous physical presence. Finally, LPR status will allow individuals to immediately access a variety of state and federal aid and benefits related to higher education, including: (a) financial assistance (including grants, scholarships, loans, work study, services, and more); (b) occupational and professional licensure; (c) enrollment and admissions; (d) in-state tuition; and more.
TPS & DED. The roadmap to citizenship for TPS & DED holders would include current and former TPS & DED holders; AND individuals who were previously eligible for TPS & DED but did not apply. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they:
Were continuously physically present in the United States for at least three years;
- Did not engage in conduct that would render them ineligible for TPS or DED (mostly around criminal background issues); AND
ONE of the following:
- Had or were eligible for TPS on January 1, 2017; OR
- Had or were eligible for DED on January 20, 2021;
II. House Committee on Education and Labor Provisions
A. Expansion of Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid. This legislation would expand eligibility for federal financial assistance, including Pell grants, loans, and work assistance, to DACA recipients and TPS & DED holders through 2030.
B. Increase in Pell Grants. This legislation would increase the maximum amount of Pell grants (e.g. federal financial aid grants for higher education) by $500 through 2030.
C. Inclusion of Immigrants in Tuition Free Community College Provisions. This legislation would ensure that the bill’s expansion of free community college (which takes place through grant programs to state and local jurisdictions) would include all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, TPS & DED holders, and other noncitizens in various immigration statuses.
D. Inclusion of Immigrants in Tuition Assistance Grants to Minority-Serving Institutions. This legislation would ensure that the proposed expansion of tuition assistance grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) would include immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, TPS & DED holders, and other noncitizens in various immigration statuses.
1 There are other immigration-related provisions in this legislation that are not discussed in this summary, including provisions related to the Diversity Visa and EB-5 backlog reduction.
2 The markup in the House Judiciary Committee occurred on September 13, 2021; you can find the proposed amendments, roll call votes, and more on the committee’s website. You can view the most recent version of the language here.
3 The markup in the House Committee on Education and Labor occurred on September 10, 2021; you can find the proposed amendments, roll call votes, and more on the committee’s website. You can view the most recent version of the language here.
An Update from the Center for American Progress, July 13, 2020
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s first attempt to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in September 2017, was unlawful. On July 13, 2020, the Supreme Court certified its judgement in the case, and—under the law—the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an unambiguous obligation to fully reinstate DACA. As a result, not only must the agency continue processing renewal applications by those who currently hold DACA, but it must also reopen the application process to more than 300,000 new applicants who are eligible under the terms of the program, including 55,500 of the youngest DACA-eligible individuals who have aged into eligibility over the past three years and will now be able to apply for the first time.
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate the administration’s 2017 DACA rescission memorandum, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken no public steps to restore DACA to the way it operated pre-rescission. Rather, the agency has been silent—with exception of a post-decision statement that opened by questioning the legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself. As of the date of publication, the Trump administration is in open defiance of the law.
More than 825,000 immigrants have benefited from DACA’s protections
Over the past eight years, more than 825,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children have held protection from deportation and work authorization with DACA. Under DACA’s protection, these individuals have made great strides; they have pursued higher education, advanced their careers, enlisted in the military, and become more civically engaged members of their communities. Alongside their neighbors, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are keeping the country safe as front line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic, including the nearly 30,000 recipients who are health care workers. DACA is also immensely popular, with nearly 9 in 10 Americans expressing support for allowing these young people and other Dreamers to remain in the country.
The Stakes of the Supreme Court’s Ruling
The Center for American Progress estimates that more than 1.1 million undocumented immigrants meet the basic DACA requirements—including being under age 31 as of June 15, 2012. Given that 825,000 immigrants have held DACA at some point during the program’s existence, that leaves approximately 300,000 young immigrants who should be able to apply for a first grant of DACA in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.
Equally important, these data include 55,500 young people who have turned 15 in the nearly three years since the Trump administration illegally rescinded the initiative, meaning they have now aged into eligibility. This includes nearly 12,000 young people in Texas and 10,500 young people in California alone. Because the Trump administration denied these young people the opportunity to apply for DACA, they never established a direct reliance on DACA’s protections. During this time, however, many of them undoubtedly saw opportunities open up for their older siblings, peers, and classmates, as well as other people in their communities. Once they are allowed to apply, the data show that it will not take long for them to see DACA’s benefits.
Professor Roberto Gonzales, who has long studied DACA recipients, explains that within the first year after DACA began, DACA recipients were “already taking giant steps. They found new jobs. They increased their earnings. … And they began to build credit through opening bank accounts and obtaining credit cards.” Young people who obtained DACA in high school—as would be the case for most of those who have aged into the program since September 2017—experienced an “immediate change in their motivation; attending college and working in their dream fields had become a real option for them.” Just as DACA has been a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of young people over the eight years of its existence, it should also be a lifeline for these youngest eligible applicants.
Using Your Voice
With public statements indicating that the administration is committed to trying a second time to end DACA, the Trump administration has yet to comply with the court ruling. It is paramount that Congress pass legislation providing permanent protections to Dreamers (including those with Temporary Protected Status). Passing legislation would finally give DACA recipients the peace of mind that, after eight years, they—and the country at large—so badly need.
Please reach out to your Congressional representatives and express your support for legislation protecting DREAMers and providing them with a path to citizenship.
TheDream.US has over 5,000 DREAMer Scholars and Graduates who need your help!