WASHINGTON — With the future uncertain for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors, three Republican senators say they have a proposal to allow for permanent residency and potential citizenship.
“We are willing to talk with anyone providing certainty to these children. Let politics get checked at the door; let’s provide something on a bipartisan basis to these children and young adults in this country,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, according to CBS News.
He and Sens. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have proposed an alternative for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also called “DACA.” The program was implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012 to defer deportations for those who came to the U.S. as minors and met certain criteria. President Obama implemented it via executive order, rather than legislation.
The Trump administration has rescinded the program, but left open a six-month legal window to adjudicate the renewal process for DACA recipients.
The three senators’ proposed replacement is called the Succeed Act, which stands for “Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education, and Defending our nation.”
They described it as a “fair and compassionate,” merit-based solution to undocumented U.S. residents who qualify.
“If you work hard, follow the law and pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently,” Tillis said.
The legislation would grant conditional status to a recipient who maintains gainful employment, pursues higher education or serves in the U.S. military. Those eligible must have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and must hold a high-school diploma or equivalent. They must also pass an extensive criminal background check, submit biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security, and must be able to pay off any existing federal tax liabilities.
Tillis said the process would prevent “chain migration,” which gives priority to family members.
The legislation would provide a second round of five-year protected status for participants who secure five years of gainful employment, earn a degree or serve in the military. Participants in the program could then apply for a green card.
“We have millions of great young people that can add a great deal to our country,” Hatch said. “We need a permanent solution to this problem, not just kicking it down the road.”
Lankford said immigration is an “unresolved issue that continues to get harder every single year.” He said he did not see the Succeed Act as “a stand-alone bill” and endorsed stronger border security and other policies.
The bill would be an alternative to the DREAM Act, reintroduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Dick Durbin, R-Illinois. That legislation would implement much of the Obama-era executive order and grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18 and have lived in the U.S. for four years, provided they meet certain criteria, including enrolling in college, joining the military or finding jobs.
The proposed legislation’s name derives from the acronym Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. It was first proposed in the year 2001.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ executive committee on Sept. 12 urged the Catholic faithful to advocate for the passage of the DREAM Act or similar legislation “as a prompt, humane and durable solution to this problem of greatest urgency.” The bishops said Congress had failed to address the situation for many years.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles backed the DREAM Act in a July 21 statement, saying it would “permanently lift the threat of deportation that right now hangs over the heads of more than 1 million young people who were brought to this country illegally or are living in the homes of undocumented parents.”