Sen. Sessions' DREAM Act Memo Misleads On Multiple Claims

November 24, 2010 12:09 pm ET

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has begun circulating a memo to member of Congress that is billed as a "CRITICAL IMMIGRATION ALERT" featuring an overwhelming abundance of misleading information about the DREAM Act. Sessions' document claims, among other things, that this "Obama-Reid Amnesty Plan" would give admission preference to non-citizens, grant amnesty to immigrants with criminal records, and has no definite requirements of military service or higher education. In fact, the DREAM Act is narrowly tailored so that students with "good moral character" who have completed 2 years of military service or higher education and have not committed any serious crimes can be put on a path to citizenship.

CLAIM: Bill Would Give College Preference To "Illegals" Over Citizens

Sessions Memo:

Bill Would Give College Preference To Illegals Over Citizens [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: DREAM Act Wouldn't Affect Admission For Natural-Born Citizens

DREAM Act Will Likely Have "Zero Impact" On College Admissions Rates For Native-Born Citizens. According to the National Immigration Law Center: "Most undocumented students are likely to have zero impact on admission rates of native born students: Since 2001, 10 states have made it easier for undocumented state residents to attend college by offering in-state tuition to those that qualify. A significant portion of the students that took advantage of this opportunity have done so in community colleges, which have open enrollment. The small numbers of students who will attend 4-year universities are not significant enough to affect the opportunities of others." [National Immigration Law Center, accessed 11/23/10; underlining original]

CLAIM: The DREAM Act Is Not Limited To Children, And It Will Be Funded On The Backs Of Law-Abiding Americans

Sessions Memo:

Proponents of the DREAM Act frequently claim the bill offers relief only to illegal alien "kids." Incredibly, previous versions of the DREAM Act had no age limit at all, so illegal aliens of any age who satisfied the Act's requirements-not just children-could obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. In response to this criticism, S.3827 includes a requirement that aliens be under the age of 35 on the date of enactment to be eligible for LPR status. Even with this cap, many aliens would be at least 41 years old before obtaining full LPR status under the Act-hardly the "kids" the Act's advocates keep talking about. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: There Is An Age Limit For Students Who Can Qualify For The DREAM Act

DREAM Act Places Age Limits On Eligibility. According to the National Immigration Law Center: "There is a limit on how old a student can be to qualify for the DREAM Act: Students must have entered the United States at the age of 15 or younger. In addition, the Senate version of the DREAM Act includes an upper age cap - you have to be under 35 years of age in order to benefit under the bill." [National Immigration Law Center, accessed 11/23/10; underlining original]

FACT: DREAM Act Would Actually MAKE Taxpayers Money

DREAM Act Would Not Cost Taxpayers, But Instead Make Money. According to the National Immigration Law Center: "The DREAM Act would not cost money; it would make money for taxpayers. A very conservative estimate finds that the average DREAM Act student will make $1 million more over his or her lifetime simply by obtaining legal status, which will net tens of thousands of additional dollars per student for federal, state, and local treasuries." [National Immigration Law Center, accessed 11/23/10; underlining original]

CLAIM: The DREAM Act Protects Any "Alien," Including Criminals, From Being Removed Or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application

Sessions Memo:

Although DREAM Act proponents claim it will benefit only those who meet certain age, presence, and educational requirements, amazingly the Act protects ANY alien who simply submits an application for status no matter how frivolous. The bill forbids the Secretary of Homeland Security from removing "any alien who has a pending application for conditional status" under the DREAM Act-regardless of age or criminal record-providing a safe harbor for all illegal aliens. This loophole will open the floodgates for applications that could stay pending for many years or be litigated as a delay tactic to prevent the illegal aliens' removal from the United States. The provision will further erode any chances of ending the rampant illegality and fraud in the existing system. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: DREAM Act Offers No Safe Harbor From Deportation

Immigration Lawyer: Those Who Can't Prove "Good Moral Character" Are "Excluded From The Application Procedure." David Leopold, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Media Matters for America in an email:

It is specious to claim that the Dream Act provides a "safe harbor for any alien, including criminals, from being removed or deported if they simply submit an application."  The claim is based on a provision which prohibits the removal of any alien who has a pending Dream Act application.  But the Bill also makes clear that only "eligible" aliens may apply.  Criminals and others who cannot prove they have good moral character are ineligible for the Dream Act and, therefore, clearly excluded from the application procedure. The Dream Act offers them no safe harbor from deportation. [Leopold Email, 11/23/10]

CLAIM: "Criminal Aliens" Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act

Sessions Memo:

Certain categories of criminal aliens will be eligible for the DREAM Act amnesty, including alien gang members and aliens with misdemeanor convictions, even DUIs. The DREAM Act allows illegal aliens guilty of the following offenses to be eligible for amnesty: alien absconders (aliens who failed to attend their removal proceedings), aliens who have engaged in voter fraud or unlawfully voted, aliens who have falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, aliens who have abused their student visas, and aliens who have committed marriage fraud. Additionally, illegal aliens who pose a public health risk, aliens who have been permanently barred from obtaining U.S. citizenship, and aliens who are likely to become a public charge are also eligible. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: Immigrants Convicted Of Serious Crimes Are Ineligible For Citizenship Under The DREAM Act

Immigrants With Serious Criminal Records Are Excluded From DREAM Act. According to the Immigration Policy Center: "Immigrants convicted of serious crimes are ineligible for DREAM Act status; the DREAM Act excludes from eligibility most immigrants applying for benefits who have been under an order of deportation.  Specifically, the DREAM Act states that an applicant may not have already been ordered deported unless they received the order before they were 16 years old." [, 11/23/10]

CLAIM: Estimates Suggest That At Least 2.1 Million "Illegal Aliens" Will Be Eligible For The DREAM Act "Amnesty" And We Have No Idea How Many Will Apply

Sessions Memo:

Section 4(d) of the DREAM Act waives all numerical limitations on green cards, and prohibits any numerical limitation on the number of aliens eligible for amnesty under its provisions. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the DREAM Act will make approximately 2.1 million illegal aliens eligible for amnesty. It is highly likely that the number of illegal aliens receiving amnesty under the DREAM Act will be much higher than the estimated 2.1 million due to fraud and our inherent inability to accurately estimate the illegal alien population. Clearly, the message sent by the DREAM Act will be that if any young person can enter the country illegally, within 5 years, they will be placed on a path to citizenship. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: The DREAM Act Is Narrowly Tailored

Estimates Suggest That The Likely Number Of Students To Benefit From The DREAM Act Is 825,000. According to the National Immigration Law Center:

MYTH: The DREAM Act is a massive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

  • The DREAM Act is not an amnesty: The DREAM Act is not a giveaway to undocumented youth, even those who have lived here all of their lives. Rather, it creates a well-defined process to legalize only those who grew up here and who earn status by staying in school and maintaining good moral character.
  • The DREAM Act is narrowly tailored: Our immigration law currently has no mechanism to consider the special equities and circumstances of these students. The DREAM Act would eliminate this flaw. To apply for relief under the DREAM Act, these young people would have to graduate from high school or earn a GED, have good moral character, have come to the U.S. when they were young and show that they have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. Students would then be eligible to apply for conditional status. During the 6-year conditional status, students would have to either complete at least two years of higher education or two years of military service. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that the likely total number of students to ever benefit from the DREAM Act is 825,000.

[National Immigration Law Center, accessed 11/23/10; emphasis original]

CLAIM: "Illegal Aliens" Will Get In-State Tuition Benefits

Sessions Memo:

The DREAM Act will allow illegal aliens to qualify for in-state tuition, even when it is not being offered to U.S. citizens and legally present aliens living just across state lines. Section 3 of the DREAM Act repeals Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1623) which prohibits giving education benefits to an unlawfully present individual unless that same benefit is offered to all U.S. citizens. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: DREAM Act Lets States Determine In-State Tuition Eligibility

In-State Tuition Eligibility To Be Determined By Individual States. According to Section 3 of the DREAM Act legislation under consideration Senate, "Restoration of state option to determine residency for purposes of higher education benefits" would repeal Section 505 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. [S. 3827, accessed 11/23/10]

  • Illegal Immigration Reform And Immigrant Responsibility Act Barred States From Granting In-State Tuition To Unauthorized Immigrants. As the Congressional Research Service explained in a February 3 report, the 1996 law "prohibits states from granting unauthorized aliens certain post secondary educational benefits on the basis of state residence, unless equal benefits are made available to all U.S. citizens. This prohibition is commonly understood to apply to the granting of "in-state" residency status for tuition purposes. [Congressional Research Service, 2/3/10]

CLAIM: Despite Their Current Illegal Status, DREAM Act Aliens Will Be Given All The Rights That Legal Immigrants Receive — Including The Legal Right To Sponsor Their Parents And Extended Family Members For Immigration

Sessions Memo:

Under current federal law, U.S. citizens have the right to immigrate their "immediate relatives" to the U.S. without regard to numerical caps. Similarly, lawful permanent residents can immigrate their spouses and children to the U.S. as long as they retain their status. This means illegal aliens who receive amnesty under the DREAM Act will have the right to immigrate their family members-including the parents who sent for or brought them to the U.S. illegally in the first place-in unlimited numbers as soon as they become U.S. citizens (6 to 8 years after enactment) and are 21 years of age.

Additionally, amnestied aliens who become U.S. citizens will be able to petition for their adult siblings living abroad to immigrate to the U.S., further incentivizing chain migration and potentially illegal entry into the United States (for those who don't want to wait for the petition process overseas). When an adult brother or sister receives a green card, the family (spouse and children) of the adult sibling receive green cards as well. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: Beneficiaries Of the DREAM Act Cannot Sponsor Members Of Their Extended Family

DREAM Act Beneficiaries Cannot Sponsor Members Of Their Extended Family And Many Parents Will Be Ineligible For Sponsorship. According to the National Immigration Law Center:

MYTH: Beneficiaries of the DREAM can sponsor their relatives-the parents who brought them here illegally, any siblings left in the home country, and then aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.

  • Even when DREAM beneficiaries attain citizenship, they can never sponsor their aunts/uncles or cousins. Immigration law doesn't allow it.
  • Many parents will be ineligible to adjust: Students who fulfill all of the requirements prescribed in the DREAM Act can adjust their status and eventually apply to become U.S. citizens. If they apply and become citizens, like other U.S. citizens, they can petition for their parents when they turn 21. However, if their parents originally entered the country without inspection, they will not be eligible to get relief. While parents who entered without inspection may apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate abroad, they will likely be barred from entering the U.S. for ten years if they have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for over six months.

[National Immigration Law Center, accessed 11/23/10; emphasis original]

CLAIM: Current Illegal Aliens Will Get Federal Student Loans, Federal Work Study Programs, And Other Forms Of Federal Financial Aid

Sessions Memo:

Section 10 of the DREAM Act allows illegal aliens amnestied under the bill's provisions to qualify for federal student assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.) in the form of federal student loans (Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Stafford/Ford Loans), federal work-study programs, and other federal education services such as tutoring and counseling. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: Beneficiaries Of DREAM Act Would Have Limited Access To Federal Financial Aid

DREAM Act Recipients Would Actually Have Limited Access To Federal Financial Aid Programs Under Both Bills Under Consideration By The House And Senate. According to the Congressional Research Service:

S. 729 would place restrictions on the eligibility of aliens who adjust to LPR [legal permanent resident] status under its provisions for federal student financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Under that act, LPRs and certain other eligible noncitizens may receive federal financial aid. Aliens adjusting status under S. 729, however, would be eligible only for student loans, federal work-study programs, and services (such as counseling, tutorial services, and mentoring), subject to the applicable requirements. Unlike other LPRs, they would be ineligible for federal Pell Grants or federal supplemental educational opportunity grants.


H.R. 1751 would place temporary restrictions on the eligibility of aliens who adjusted to LPR status under its provisions, for federal student financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Aliens adjusting status under the bill would be ineligible for federal Pell Grants and federal supplemental educational opportunity grants while in conditional permanent resident status. Once the conditional basis was removed and they became full-fledged LPRs, these restrictions would no longer apply. By contrast, under S. 774, as discussed above, these restrictions would be permanent.

[Congressional Research Service, 2/3/10]

Unauthorized Immigrants "Are Ineligible For Federal Financial Aid." According to the Congressional Research Service:

Unauthorized aliens are neither entitled to nor prohibited from admission to postsecondary educational institutions in the United States. To gain entrance to these institutions, these students must meet the same requirements as any other student, which vary depending on the institution and may include possessing a high school diploma, passing entrance exams, and surpassing a high school grade point average (GPA) threshold. Although admissions applications for most colleges and universities request that students provide their Social Security numbers, this information typically is not required for admission.

Even if they are able to gain admission, however, unauthorized alien students often find it difficult, if not impossible, to pay for higher education. Under the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended, they are ineligible for federal financial aid. In most instances, unauthorized alien students are likewise ineligible for state financial aid. Furthermore, as explained in the next section, they also may be ineligible for in-state tuition.

[Congressional Research Service, 2/3/10]

CLAIM: DHS Is Prohibited From Using The Information Provided By Illegal Aliens Whose DREAM Act Amnesty Applications Are Denied To Initiate Their Removal Proceedings Or Investigate Or Prosecute Fraud In The Application Process

Sessions Memo:

When an illegal alien's DREAM Act amnesty application is denied, the bill states that the alien will revert to their "previous immigration status," which is likely illegal or deportable. The bill, however, prohibits using any of the information contained in the amnesty application (name, address, length of illegal presence that the alien admits to, etc) to initiate a removal proceeding or investigate or prosecute fraud in the application process. Thus, it will be extremely hard for DHS to remove aliens who they now know are illegally present in the U.S., because illegal aliens will be able to claim that the legal action is a product of the amnesty application, and DHS will have the nearly impossible task of proving a negative. [Sessions Memo via Politico, 11/22/10]

FACT: Privacy Protections In DREAM Act Don't Apply In Certain Cases

DREAM Act Allows DHS To Turn Over Information To Law Enforcement Officials If Certain Cases. The text of the Senate's version of the DREAM Act states that "The Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide the information furnished under this section, and any other information derived from such furnished information, to- (1) a duly recognized law enforcement entity in connection with an investigation or prosecution of an offense described in paragraph (2) or (3) of section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)), when such information is requested in writing by such entity." [S. 3827, accessed 11/23/10]

DHS Authorized To Provide Information About Immigrants Who Pose A Threat To Others. The DREAM Act allows officials to provide information on those described by the Immigration and Nationality Act:

i) 1/ except as provided in subparagraph (C) 1a/ who seeks admission as an immigrant, or who seeks adjustment of status to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and who has failed to present documentation of having received vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases, which shall include at least the following diseases: mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza type B and hepatitis B, and any other vaccinations against vaccine-pre ventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices,

(iii) who is determined (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Attorney General)-

(I) to have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others, or

(II) to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior

[, accessed 11/23/10]