The STARS (Studying Towards Residency Status Act) Act, Senator Marco Rubio’s answer to the DREAM Act, has been introduced this week by Rubio and Representative David Rivera. While the DREAM Act has been unable to get past Congress for the past decade, there is hope that the STARS Act might pass into law. A similar Act, the Adjusted Residency for Military Service Act (ARMS) Act was introduced last year by Rivera.
The STARS Act, if passed, would allow undocumented immigrants who are under the age of 20 and who are students the ability to apply for conditional non-immigrant status. To qualify, the students would need to have entered the US before they were 16 years of age, must have graduated from high school, and must have been accepted by a university. The students must also have lived consecutively in the US for at least five years. The conditional non-immigrant status would allow the students to study and work in the US for an additional five years. If the students graduate from university and meet other conditions, they may be able to apply for five more years of non-immigrant status.
The STARS Act is considered less controversial than the DREAM Act, which gives young undocumented immigrants a chance to pursue citizenship. Both acts deal with the problem of children of undocumented immigrants. Children are often brought into the US by undocumented immigrant parents but are minors and do not make decisions about staying in or entering the US illegally. These children grow up in the US but often do not have any status, leading many advocates to suggest that more needs to be done to help these children, especially since their skills and education could potentially help the US economy. Many Republicans have been opposed to the DREAM Act, saying that the legislation would reward undocumented immigration by granting undocumented immigrants the path to citizenship.
While the STARS Act, however, just provides a path to immigration status, it can eventually lead to citizenship as well. Under the proposed legislation, students would be able to apply for full permanent residency and so eventually citizenship if they graduated from a four-year university and stayed in the US. There are more requirements with the STARS Act than with the DREAM Act, but the final result could potentially be the same for undocumented immigrants.
Experts believe that the STARS Act has little chance of success making it to actual legislation or even passing the House. The proposed law would still permit undocumented immigrants a path to (eventual) citizenship and there are many members of the GOP who feel that any such move is a type of amnesty, which the GOP has largely objected to.