- Must have entered the United States before the age of 16 (i.e. 15 and younger)
- Must have been present in the United States for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill
- Must have graduated from a United States high school, or have obtained a GED, or have been accepted into an institution of higher education (i.e. college/university)
- Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application
- Must have good moral character
Suppose your parents moved to America from Mexico without legal permission when you were five years old. You grow up in America. You graduate from high school in America. You're an American in every sense except the legal one. You want to go to college, but because your parents came into the country illicitly, you don't qualify for government financial aid, and you can't get legal work. If caught by immigration authorities, you face the possibility of detention or deportation, even though this is, in every sense, your home. That doesn't seem fair. Every year, over 60,000 kids like you graduate high school in the United States. And unless something like the DREAM Act becomes law, you and they will become part of a growing class of marginalised and unprotected Americans without papers. Even then, the papers are no sure thing. You've got to serve in the military or get a couple years of college under your belt, and stay out of trouble. But at least you'll someday have the chance to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as your date to the prom.
The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.