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A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States

2002: Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act & 2012: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Rommy Torrico. We the Future - "Leah the Activist" / Immigrant rights activist Leah the Activist. 2020. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The U.S. bars those who lack citizenship or legal status from equal social or economic opportunities. Non-citizens also face discrimination and the possibility of deportation. The Development, Relief, and Education or Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was first proposed through a bipartisan effort by Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Hatch (R-UT) in 2001 but failed to acquire the 60 votes needed to formalize it as law. Building on the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act IIRIRA (1996), which authorized states to pass legislation that would allow undocumented youth to receive state aid with state requirements, the DREAM Act proposed granting undocumented youth who finished high school in the U.S. and wanted to attend a U.S. post-secondary institution a conditional pathway to citizenship, which would require employment, education, and military service. From 2007 to 2012, various senators unsuccessfully reintroduced and modified the DREAM Act, casting nationwide attention to the issue but failing to reach a consensus on a comprehensive immigration policy.

After the Dream Act failed congressional passage in 2011, President Obama issued an executive memorandum called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protected undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. DACA also granted these youth work permits and driver licenses renewable for 2-year periods. However, DACA did not incorporate a path to citizenship. There were over 800,000 DACA recipients in 2017.

In 2017, Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General, rescinded DACA, halting new DACA applications after September 2017. On July 2020, a 5-4 U.S Supreme Court decision overturned the Attorney General’s orders and reinstated DACA.

Who fulfills the requirements for DACA eligibility?

Individuals who:

  • are under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;
  • came to the U.S. while under the age of 16;
  • have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
  • entered the U.S. without inspection or who has fell out of status (overstayed a visa) before June 15, 2012;
  • are currently enrolled in school, have obtained a high school diploma or GED; or have been discharged from military service;
  • have no criminal history


1982 Plyler v. Doe is ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court, permitting undocumented children to attend K-12 school.
1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act is passed granting states the right to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students only if out-of-state residents were alloted the same tuition fees.
May 2001 Student Adjustment Act is proposed by Howard Berman (D-CA) and Chris Cannon (R-UT).
August 2001 The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is first proposed and rejected by Congress numerous times. The act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals who entered the country as minors and who satisfy certain criteria.
2012 Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduces the DREAM Act on the Senate floor and proposes the bill’s inclusion of legalizing undocumented minors but rejects provision of a pathway to citizenship for those individuals.
June 15, 2012 The Obama administration passes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows undocumented youth, who fulfill certain requirements, to be protected from deportation, receive a work permit, and qualify for a driver's license.
2014 Deferred Acton for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would provide deferred action to parents of children citizens or permanent residents, is unsuccessful.
2017 DACA is rescinded under the Trump administration.
July 2020 The Supreme Court reinstates DACA in Department of Homeland Security et al v. Regents of the University of California.


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The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

The following external websites can be useful for expanding your research on the Dream Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).