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Getting Immigration Reform Right: Dreamers With Lawful Status Cannot Petition To Bring New Immigrants To The U.S.

May 5, 2013 | Comunicados de Prensa

THE CONCERN: Approximately 2 million young people who were brought here illegally when they were children, best known as Dreamers, will earn permanent legal status in just five years and as soon as they have this status they will be petitioning for an unknown number of family members to join them in the U.S.

  • “He pointed to a fast-track, five-year path to citizenship in the legislation for more than 2 million young immigrants brought here without authorization as children, who call themselves Dreamers. Mr. Sessions said that after they gained permanent legal status, those immigrants would be able to bring any of their family members, adding as many as 2 million more immigrants in future years. He also warned about the future impact of new guest worker programs for farm laborers and other low-wage migrants.” (Julia Preston, “Sessions Says Immigration Bill is a Threat to U.S. Workers,” The New York Times, 5/3/13)

WHAT THE BILL DOES: The bill does provide Dreamers with lawful status through which they can to earn lawful permanent residence after five years, as these young adults do not know any other place as home.  However, no one with lawful status has the ability to petition for family members to enter the U.S. To petition for a family member to come to the U.S. any immigrant – legal or illegal first – must be either a lawful permanent resident or U.S. Citizen. In addition to family petitions being limited to lawful permanent residents and U.S. Citizens, no one can petition for an immediate family member if that family member is in Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. In addition, the bill eliminates certain family-based categories and replaces them with a merit-based system. Under the bill, immigrants will no longer be able to become U.S. Citizens and then immediately start petitioning to bring their brothers, sisters, and married adult children.

THE DREAMER HAS A UNIQUE FAMILY STATUS: As a lawful permanent resident a Dreamer would only be able to petition for their spouse or children. As a U.S. Citizen, a Dreamer  would only be able to petition for their spouse, children or parents. However, a Dreamer has a unique family status:

  • The reality is most Dreamers were brought to the U.S. by their parents, and it is very likely their parents will be in the U.S. and eligible for RPI status.

  • If a Dreamer does get married, given that they have spent most of their lives in the U.S., their spouse is likely to be either a U.S. Citizen, lawful permanent resident, or in RPI status. Someone with one of the first two statuses will not need sponsorship and someone in RPI status cannot be sponsored. It is likely some Dreamers will marry foreigners down the line, but this will be well into the future as most Dreamers have not been able to travel abroad because of their lack of status.

  • If the Dreamer’s spouse, children, or parents are in RPI status, the bill stipulates that the Dreamer cannot petition for them even if the Dreamer is a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident.

BOTTOM LINE: There will not be a huge influx of petitions from Dreamers if they earn lawful permanent residence or U.S. Citizenship as it is likely their parents, spouses, and potential children will either not need sponsorship or not be eligible to be sponsored. There are no special exceptions for Dreamers to quickly bring in family members from abroad.