E.g., 04/12/2024
E.g., 04/12/2024
DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries

Slightly more than 2.1 million unauthorized immigrant youth and young adults could be eligible to apply for legal status under the 2010 DREAM Act, though historical trends indicate that perhaps fewer than 40 percent would obtain legal status because of a variety of limitations. The law’s enactment would immediately make 726,000 unauthorized young adults eligible for conditional legal status; of these roughly 114,000 would be eligible for permanent legal status after the six-year wait. Another 934,000 potential beneficiaries are children under 18 who will age into conditional-status eligibility in the future, provided they earn a U.S. high school diploma or obtain a General Education Development degree.

This policy brief offers detailed estimates of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries by age, education levels, gender, state of residence, and likelihood of gaining legalization. The authors estimate that roughly 38 percent of potential beneficiaries—825,000 people—would likely obtain permanent legal status through the DREAM Act’s education and military routes.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act seeks to provide a path to legalization for eligible unauthorized youth and young adults by allowing individuals to apply for legal permanent resident status on a conditional basis. Eligibility requirements include: being under the age of 35, arrival in the United States before the age of 16, living in the United States for at least the last five years, and possession of a U.S. high school diploma or equivalent. The conditional basis of their status would be removed in six years if they complete at least two years of postsecondary education or military service and maintain good moral character.

Updated Estimates, based on legislative changes before Congress in December 2010.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Key Provisions

III. Key Categories of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries and Methodology

IV. Findings

A. General Findings for Key Age and Education Profiles

B. Other Pertinent Characteristics of Potential Beneficiaries

C. State Estimates

D. Permanent Legal Status Prospects for the Four Potential-Beneficiary Cohorts

V. Conclusion