Dream Act of 2023
Priority Bill Spotlight

dream act 2021

The bipartisan Dream Act of 2023 (S. 365), introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would establish a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age and have grown up in America. As legal challenges threaten the future of this critical policy, this legislation is necessary to ensure that Dreamers can continue living in and contributing to the country they call home.

Dreamers are Americans, and a path to citizenship is long overdue. We urge every U.S. Senator to cosponsor this critical legislation.

DACA...has been a remarkable success, but it is limited, temporary, and under immediate legal threat.

The need for a solution is more urgent than ever

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy that provides work authorization and protection from deportation to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. at a young age, has been a remarkable success, but it is limited, temporary, and under imminent legal threat. Despite the Supreme Court’s previous decision to allow DACA to continue, persistent attacks on the policy threaten its future.

Last year, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the DACA policy illegal, and while individuals with valid DACA permits will maintain their protections for now, the policy is closed to new applicants, leaving 400,000 individuals who were unable to enroll in DACA.

Now the future of DACA remains uncertain. The Appeals court has sent the case back to Judge Hanen in Texas, who has previously ruled to end DACA, and there is a real risk that renewal applications could be halted before the next election. The trajectory of the case could ultimately end back in the hands of the Supreme Court, making it very possible that DACA could be completely ended in the near future.

Congress has been debating variations of the Dream Act for nearly 20 years1, yet, despite broad bipartisan support, Congress has failed to pass a bill and Dreamers have remained stuck in limbo. Now, the threat of DACA ending is very real, and imminent, and the consequences of delaying this issue into the next presidential administration could result in further inaction, with hundreds of DACA recipients losing work authorization and facing the threat of deportation.

Dreamers are Americans, and a pathway to citizenship is long overdue.

Eligible Dreamers could apply for conditional permanent status

The Dream Act of 2023 (S. 365) would establish a process for Dreamers to apply for conditional legal status and ultimately become citizens.

To qualify for the Dream Act, eligible individuals must be generally considered “inadmissible” or “deportable” under immigration law, or be in temporary protected status. Applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before they were 18 years old and have lived in the U.S. continuously since arriving, at least four years prior to the date of enactment of the legislation. They must also meet an educational requirement by having been admitted to an institution of higher education, or by having earned or be pursuing a high school diploma or equivalent.2

If approved, applicants would be granted conditional permanent resident (CPR) status, valid for eight years and subject to revocation if the individual no longer meets the requirements.3 Those individuals who have been granted and are still eligible for DACA and would automatically qualify for CPR status.

Individuals could apply to have conditions removed after graduating from or completing two years in a postsecondary education program, serving honorably in the military for two years, or working for three years. Many DACA recipients would likely have satisfied these requirements by the time of the bill’s enactment and be eligible to immediately apply to remove conditions. The bill would also allow for conditions to be removed if there are “compelling circumstances,” including in cases where the individual’s removal would result in extreme hardship to immediate family members who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

"Dreamers would contribute $687 billion to the U.S. economy and pay $230 billion in combined taxes over the next decade if they were able to become citizens."

With conditions removed, Dreamers could pursue citizenship

To demonstrate their eligibility for conditional status and to ultimately earn citizenship, applicants would be required to submit biographic and biometric information, pass a security and law enforcement background check, and pass a medical exam. The bill details requirements for applicants to establish eligibility, including documentation proving their identity; entry to and continuous presence in the U.S.; completion of education, military service, or earned income requirements; and eligibility for any waivers of fees or limitations.4

Applicants could be denied CPR status if they have been convicted of certain crimes; however, the Secretary of Homeland Security would have authority to waive certain inadmissibility grounds for humanitarian and public interest reasons.5

In order to remove the conditions on their permanent resident status, applicants would be subject to additional fees and biometric, biographic, and background check requirements when applying to remove conditions. Once conditions were removed, Dreamers would be able to apply for citizenship, as long as they generally meet naturalization requirements.

Access to citizenship would provide more certainty and security to Dreamers and their families. It would also allow them to improve their professional and economic status, and increase their contributions to their communities and the country as a whole. For example, FWD.us estimates that Dreamers would contribute $687 billion to the U.S. economy and pay $230 billion in combined taxes over the next decade if they were able to become citizens.6

Polling shows that 8 in 10 voters—including a majority of Republican voters—support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Dreamers are deeply integrated in the United States

Dreamers have grown up in America, have formed deep ties in their communities, and contribute tremendously in every state across the country.

FWD.us estimates that there are nearly 2.3 million Dreamers living in the United States today, according to the definition provided in the Dream Act of 2023. Of these, nearly 590,000 are currently protected by the DACA policy.

On average, Dreamers have lived in the United States for 17 years, and are on average 25 years old. Nearly three-fourths (73%) have graduated high school, and about 1 in 10 have some college education. An additional 600,000 are K-12 students.

For many Dreamers, America is home to family, including their U.S. citizen children, siblings and extended family. Nearly 1 million U.S. citizens live with a Dreamer as defined by the 2023 Dream Act, including 750,000 U.S. citizen children who have at least one Dreamer parent, and 200,000 U.S. citizen spouses.

Some 6 in 10 Dreamers are in the labor force, working in every industry of the economy, including as nurses, teachers, and first responders. And nearly half are working in industries facing job-opening rates of 5% or above.

Dreamers contribute significantly to the U.S. economy, adding $45 billion to GDP annually, as well as paying $13 billion annually in combined federal, state, and local taxes. Providing Dreamers a pathway to citizenship would increase these contributions significantly.

A pathway to citizenship for Dreamers remains an overwhelmingly popular bipartisan policy. Polling from October 2022 shows that 8 in 10 voters—including a majority of Republican voters—support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Time for Congress to pass the Dream Act

Dreamers are Americans, and a pathway to citizenship is long overdue. Passing the Dream Act would be a positive first step to meaningful immigration reform, and would provide immediate certainty and opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and their families.

We urge every U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Dream Act, and for Congressional leadership to quickly bring it up for a vote.


  1. This bill builds on legislation that has been continually introduced for two decades, first by Senators Durbin and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in 2001. A version passed the House of Representatives in 2010, and again with bipartisan support in 2019; while Senators Graham and Durbin most recently reintroduced their version in 2021, the Senate did not vote on the bill.
  2. Many Dreamers are too young to satisfy this education requirement. To that end, the bill orders a stay of removal for Dreamers who satisfy the arrival and continuous presence requirements, who are over five years old, and who are enrolled in early childhood education, elementary school, or secondary school.
  3. An individual whose CPR status is revoked would return to their previous immigration status, so long as they still qualify for it. Eligible individuals seeking CPR status under this bill would not be subject to numerical limitations, meaning the bill would not exacerbate the growing green card backlogs.
  4. The legislation includes fee waivers for individuals who are under 18 years old; have income below 150 percent of the federal poverty line; lack parental support; have a serious, chronic disability; or have significant medical debt. The bill also establishes a hardship exemption for the education/work/service requirements, if the individual has a compelling reason they cannot satisfy the requirements and is disabled, a full-time caregiver, or their removal from the U.S. would cause their family undue hardship.
  5. The bill details a number of criminal and security bars, worth quoting in full. An individual can only be approved if he or she, “(i) is not inadmissible under paragraph (2), (3), (6)(E), (6)(G), (8), (10)(A), (10)(C), or (10)(D) of section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)); (ii) has not ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion; and (iii) has not been convicted of— (I) any offense under Federal or State law, other than a State offense for which an essential element is the alien’s immigration status, that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than 1 year; or (II) 3 or more offenses under Federal or State law, other than State offenses for which an essential element is the alien’s immigration status, for which the alien was convicted on different dates for each of the 3 offenses and imprisoned for an aggregate of 90 days or more.” Expunged convictions would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  6. For more information, please see our methodology overview here.
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