Obama’s DREAM ACT Announcement: Buyer Beware

On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that his administration will soon begin to grant benefits to certain individuals who may have qualified for relief under the never-passed DREAM Act.  Those that qualify will be granted work authorization and a temporary promise not to be removed from the United States.  An Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Memorandum explaining the announcement and providing a fairly detailed set of questions and answers can be read HERE.

(UPDATE: On July 19, 2012, the Obama Administration indicated that applications for DREAM benefits will begin to be accepted on August 15, 2012)

Who Qualifies?

As of the date of this post, the Obama Administration has explained that qualifying individuals will have:

1. Come to the United States under the age of sixteen.

2. Continuously resided in the United States for a least five years as of June 15, 2012, and were present in the United States on June 15, 2012.

3. Graduated from high school or are currently in school, obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.

4. Not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

5. Are under 31 as of June 15, 2012.

“Buyer Beware”

For those DREAMERS currently in removal proceedings, President Obama’s announcement is unquestionably a game-changer —  a possibility of a temporary, and even a long-term reprieve from the prospect of being removed from the United States.

Other DREAMERS not currently in removal proceedings are also understandably excited about the prospect of being able to remain in this country and work legally.  But, “buyer beware.”  DREAMERS must temper their excitement with the following “fine print”:

(1) President Obama’s announcement does not create a path to a green card or citizenship.

(2) Even where deferred action is granted, DREAMERS must re-apply every two years.

(3) President Obama’s policy could be reversed this November by a Republican President, or, anytime in the future for that matter.

Therefore, DREAMERS not in removal proceedings must balance their need for work authorization with the risk of announcing their presence to the United States government.  This should be a carefully considered decision.  Any attorney advising a DREAMER concerning DREAM ACT relief MUST advise the client of the potential risks involved with filing for benefits or he is failing to perform his ethical duty to properly advise.

Finally, while on the point of unscrupulous attorneys, as of the date of this blog post, no specific instructions have been published by the Obama Administration detailing how DREAMERS can file applications for benefits.  Any lawyer (or non-lawyer) advising DREAMERS they can submit applications now should not be trusted.