This bill — the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 — would combine longstanding efforts to provide a roadmap for U.S. citizenship for unauthorized immigrant youth, people who have or are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), people who had or were eligible for temporary protected status (TPS), and people with deferred enforced departure (DED). It combines the Dream Act of 2019 (H.R. 2820) and American Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 2821).
Title I — Dream Act of 2019
This section of the bill would cancel the deportation of and grant conditional permanent resident (CPR) status to a person who’s inadmissible or deportable from the U.S. if they:
- Have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least four years before the date of this bill’s enactment;
- Entered the U.S. before turning 18;
- Have either 1) been admitted to a college, university or other higher educational institution; 2) earned a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent post-secondary education credential; or 3) are enrolled in a secondary school or education program that assists students in obtaining a high school diploma, GED or similar state-authorized exam, certificate or credential from a career or technical school providing education at the secondary level, or in obtaining a recognized post-secondary credential;
- Provide biometric and biographic data, with alternative procedures available for those with physical impairments;
- Pass a background check;
- Register for military selective service if required to;
- Pay a fee no greater than $495, though fee exemptions may apply;
- Aren’t inadmissible on criminal grounds, for security or terrorism-related grounds, smuggling, student visa abuse, ineligibility for U.S. citizenship, practicing polygamy, international child abduction, unlawful voting, or renouncing citizenship to avoid taxation;
- Have not participated in persecution;
- Have not been convicted of any federal or state offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than one year or three or more federal or state offenses for which the person was convicted on different dates and imprisoned for an aggregate of at least 90 days (excluding minor traffic offenses and state offenses for which an essential element is the person’s immigration status); and
- Have not been convicted of a crime of domestic violence, with exceptions for those who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, child abuse or neglect, or U.S. nonimmigrant status-eligible criminal activities or if is granted for humanitarian or family unity purposes or is in the public interest.
This section would also cancel deportation proceedings and allows for adjustment of status to conditional permanent resident (CPR) status for anyone who was granted DACA (unless they have become ineligible) or those who would’ve been eligible for DACA. It also prevents and stays the removal of children under 18 years old, allowing them to remain in the U.S. while they become eligible for relief in the future. Finally, it allows individuals deported or voluntarily removed on or after January 20, 2017 to apply for DACA from abroad if they’re otherwise eligible, even if they weren’t previously granted DACA (and if the sole reason for their removal or voluntary departure was their unlawful presence in the country).
All CPR status granted under this section of the bill would provide eligibility to remain in the U.S. for 10 years, unless extended by the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary. Those with CPR status would be treated like lawful permanent residents (LPRs) for purposes of access to professional, commercial, and business licenses. CPR status may be terminated if the individual no longer meets inadmissibility requirements. If an individual’s CPR status expires, is terminated, or is denied, they would return to their previous immigration status.
Persons with CPR status could subsequently be granted LPR status if they:
- Meet the inadmissibility requirements, subject to treatment of expungement definitions and inadmissibility waivers;
- Have not abandoned their residence in the U.S. during their period of CPR status;
- Meet one of the following requirements (subject to the hardship exception below): 1) earned a degree from an institution of higher education, or completed at least two years of a U.S. program leading to a bachelor’s degree or higher degree or certificate or credential from an area career and technical education school; 2) served in the military for at least 2 years and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge; or 3) have been employed for at least 3 years and at least 75 percent of the time the person has had employment authorization, except any periods in which they were enrolled in an institution of higher education, secondary school, or (high school equivalency) education program;
- Demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak English and knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government, unless unable to because of a disability;
- Pay a reasonable fee commensurate with the cost of processing the application subject to fee exemptions based on specified need-based criteria;
- Provide biometric and biographic data, with alternative procedures available for those with physical impairments; and
- Pass a background check.
Exceptions for the education, military, and work requirements above for removing the conditional basis of a person’s CPR status could be made to grant LPR status if the person:
- Meets the admissibility requirements, subject to treatment of expungement definitions and inadmissibility waivers and has not abandoned their residence in the U.S. during their period of CPR status;
- Demonstrates compelling circumstances for their inability to complete higher education/military service/work requirement; and
- Demonstrates that they have a disability, are the full-time caregiver of a minor child, or that their removal would result in hardship to them, their spouse, parent, or child who is a national of the U.S. or holds LPR status.
A person could adjust to LPR status without having had CPR status if they:
- Demonstrate eligibility for CPR as described above;
- Have already fulfilled requirements relating to continuous residence and meeting the educational, military or work requirements (with hardship exceptions), and demonstrates the ability to read, write, and speak English and knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government (unless the person is unable to because of a disability);
- Pay a reasonable fee commensurate with the cost of processing the application, subject to fee exemptions based on specified need-based criteria; and
- Pass a background check.
Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) would be repealed in order to allow states that want to offer in-state tuition rates or higher educational benefits on the basis of residency, without regard to a student’s immigration status, to do so. This bill would also confirm that those with CPR status may qualify for certain federal student assistance, including direct federal loans, Perkins loans, work study, grants, and programs designed to identify and encourage youth with financial or cultural needs, low-income families and others to pursue higher education.
Title II — American Promise Act of 2019
This bill would allow nationals of certain countries designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to adjust status to LPR and have removal cancelled if they:
- Are a national of a country that had TPS designation on September 25, 2016, if they had TPS or were eligible for TPS on that date (even if the person did not register for TPS), or are a foreign national who had a grant of DED as of September 28, 2016;
- Have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least three years before the date of this bill’s enactment;
- Apply to adjust status within three years of enactment of this bill’s enactment; and
- Pay a filing fee capped at $1,140, with exemptions available for applicants under 18, applicants making under 150 percent of the federal poverty line, in foster care or lacking other familial or parental support, or who have serious chronic disabilities that compromise their ability to care for themselves.
Individuals who were removed or who voluntarily departed the U.S. may also adjust to LPR status if they:
- Apply from abroad;
- Were continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least three years before removal or departure;
- Had TPS or were eligible for TPS on September 25, 2016, or had DED as of September 28, 2016; and
- Were only removed or departed from the U.S. because they were in the country after their country’s TPS designation expired or after their DED or any extension of their DED expired; or, in the case of those who voluntarily departed, they did so because their country’s TPS designation was terminated.
Applicants may be inadmissible to the U.S. for the following reasons: public charges, unauthorized employment, entering the U.S. without being admitted or paroled, failure to attend removal hearings, misrepresentation, previous removal, unlawful presence, and expunged convictions.
For any applicant in removal proceedings, those proceedings would be stayed while their application for adjustment of status is pending.
In the future, if TPS is terminated for a country, the DHS Secretary would be required to provide the Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate within three days of announcing termination in the Federal Register. This report would include information about:
- What event prompted the TPS designation;
- How the country has remedied conditions that prompted the TPS designation and any continuing challenges linked to conditions upon initial designation;
- An analysis of the country’s ability to reabsorb its population;
- A description of methodologies used to determine improved country conditions; and
- Any other metrics the DHS Secretary deems necessary.
Individuals with LPR status under this section of the bill would be exempt from the English-language requirements for naturalization to U.S. citizenship. For the purpose of adjusting to LPR status, those with TPS would be considered inspected and admitted to the U.S. under immigration law.
Title III — General Provisions
This bill would prevent the removal of anyone who appears eligible or has a pending application under this bill. It’d allow anyone who has a removal order, who who has been granted voluntary departure, to apply for adjustment of status under this bill without having to file a motion to reopen, reconsider, or vacate the old removal order (and the prior removal order would be cancelled once an application under this bill is approved).
Waivers would be made available for certain grounds of inadmissibility, including: certain criminal grounds, smuggling, and student visa abuse or unlawful voting, for humanitarian or family unity purposes or if it’s in the public interest.
Applicants, including those with orders of removal, would be eligible to apply for advance parole from the time they apply for adjustment of status under this bill under a final decision is made on their application. Anyone whose removal is stayed, who can’t be placed into removal proceedings under this bill, or who has a pending application under this bill, and who applies for relief under this bill, would be granted employment authorization.
Anyone who departed the U.S. for over 90 days, or any periods over 180 days in total, would be considered to have failed to maintained continuous physical presence. Exceptions would be made for: 1) extenuating circumstances beyond the person’s control, including serious illness or death or serious illness of a parent, grandparent, sibling, or child or 2) travel outside the U.S. authorized by the DHS Secretary (e.g., advance parole).
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would award competitive grants to nonprofits to provide education and assistance to eligible individuals. These grants could fund:
- Public education about eligibility for and benefits associated with the permanent resident statuses created by the legislation;Assistance with applications for the statuses created by the legislation, including conducting screenings for eligible applicants and helping applicants fill out applications and petitions and gathering requisite documents and evidence;
- Any other assistance deemed useful or necessary to apply for new statuses; and
- Assistance or instruction in: rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship, civics, ESL, GED preparation, and applying for adjustment of status and citizenship.