Renewing the Dream: Dream Act Redux and Immigration Reform

48 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2013  

Mariela Olivares

Howard University School of Law

Date Written: July 29, 2013


This Article explores two areas of current immigration reform — the DREAM Act and the employment-based visa system — and notes parallels between the two communities of targeted beneficiaries. Through this discussion linking the DREAM Act beneficiaries (or “DREAMers”) to areas of high-skilled employment and entrepreneurism immigration visa reform, this Article argues that supporters of the DREAM Act should adopt a new strategy in lobbying and passing the DREAM Act. Because relying on the innocence and good character of the DREAMers has not proven a successful strategy to get the DREAM Act passed into law despite eleven years of effort, this Article asserts that DREAM Act advocates should look to the ongoing employment-based visa reform movement and re-brand DREAM Act beneficiaries as highly-skilled and talented potential Americans who are already contributing to American society. Although scholars and commentators have done significant work in making compelling arguments for the DREAM Act’s passage, this Article provides a completely unique strategy to pass the DREAM Act.

Part I of the Article discusses the legislative and political history of the DREAM Act. This Part notes the most recent efforts by political candidates to discuss — or ignore — the DREAM Act as a politically sensitive topic in the immigration debate. This Part also discusses the deficiencies of the Department of Homeland Security’s June 2012 announcement granting deferred action to certain young undocumented immigrants. Part II turns to a discussion of the employment-based immigration system and its historical roots in United States immigration policy. This discussion highlights the ways in which employment-based immigration policy prefers that immigrants have intellectual talent, ability and/or entrepreneurial spirit and commitment. This Part concludes by examining recent legislative efforts to reform the employment-based visa allocations so as to promote the recruitment and retention of highly-skilled and entrepreneurial non-citizens as lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and eventually citizens of the United States. Following and expanding on Part II’s explication of the employment-based visa system, Part III highlights the symmetries between the DREAM Act debate and the push for more highly-skilled non-citizens. Through this discussion, this Part sets forth a unique advocacy scheme for a retooled DREAM Act. By focusing on the ways in which the intellectually-talented, capable DREAMers can and will contribute to the financial health of the country — and in a nod to employment-based visa reform — advocates can refocus the DREAM Act narrative and get the legislation passed. Part III further proposes a new immigrant visa for DREAMers, enabling the young people to continue to study, work and contribute positively to the country. Part III acknowledges that the proposed strategy does not encompass all young undocumented immigrants, but focuses instead on the highest academic achievers. This Part discusses this and other criticisms of the proposal and argues that the importance and benefits of smaller-scaled DREAM Act passage outweigh the downsides of exclusivity.

Keywords: Immigration law, STEM, employment, education, DREAM Act

Suggested Citation

Olivares, Mariela, Renewing the Dream: Dream Act Redux and Immigration Reform (July 29, 2013). Harvard Latino Law Review, Vol. 16, 2013; Howard Law Research Paper No. 14-3. Available at SSRN:

Mariela Olivares (Contact Author)

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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