Loyola University Chicago

Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs

Student Life & Engagement

National DREAM Act (Plyler vs. Doe)

Plyler vs. Doe: 30 Years of the Right to a Public School Education for Undocumented Students

This year we celebrate 30 years since the United States’ Supreme Court decision in Plyler vs. Doe, (1982) established that undocumented immigrant students have a right to a K-12 public school education.  This ruling stated that undocumented children who were brought to this country by their parents would be relegated to a permanent underclass in the United States if they were to be denied access to a public school education k-12 due to their undocumented immigrant status.  Unfortunately, the right to a public education was not extended to higher education by the Plyler vs. Doe ruling. 


Since 2001 there have been several iterations of legislation in the U.S. Congress to resolve this dilemma. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was originally introduced in 2001 as a bi-partisan legislation at the federal level (S. 1291) by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Rickard Durbin to provide a pathway to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship for qualified undocumented immigrant students. Under the rigorous provisions of the DREAM Act, qualifying undocumented youth would be eligible for a 6-year long conditional path to citizenship that requires two years completion toward a four-year degree, completion of an Associate’s degree or four years of military service. In 2010 although the bill received enough votes to pass in the House of Representatives, and the legislation had majority support in the Senate with 55-41 in favor, 60 votes were needed for closure and passage; hence the DREAM Act bill failed to pass. 

DREAM Act Eligibility

  • Proof of having arrived in the United States at age 16 or younger.
  • Proof of residence in the United States for a least five (5) consecutive years since their date of arrival.
  • Must be between the ages of 12 and 35 at time of bill enactment (depending on the version of the bill).
  • Having graduated from an American high school, or obtained a GED.
  • Have a "Good moral character," essentially defined as the absence of a significant criminal record (or any major drug charges), compliance with selective service laws and an absence of fraudulent information in documents.
  • Qualify for “conditional” status during a 6 year period if they meet criteria
  • Need to meet one of the three following criteria in the 6 years:
  • Graduate from 2-year community college
  • Complete 2 years towards a 4-year degree
  • Serve in the military for 4 years
  • Apply for permanent legal status and eventually citizenship

President Barack Obama told ABC News that the failure of the DREAM Act was, “the biggest disappointment of my presidency”. (December 20, 2010, ABC News)

You can watch the video of the President's speech here

Reintroduction of the DREAM Act

The DREAM Act was reintroduced on May 11, 2011 as S. 952 by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois.  DREAMers and allies continue to rally, march, speak out, and share their stories in pursuit of passing the DREAM Act, as well as, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, as it is the only path to residency and eventually citizenship. 

For more information please visit the Dream Act Portal.