A pair of Republican senators have introduced the so-called SUCCEED Act that falls short of a meaningful, compassionate solution to the impending termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Short for Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education, and Defending our nation, the bill was introduced Monday by Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
Though the bill does not do enough, it does offer a pathway to citizenship over a lengthy 15 years. First, an undocumented immigrant must apply for conditional permanent residence, passing through qualifications including arriving in the U.S. before the age of 16; being present here since June 15, 2012; passing a background check; submitting biometric data; and paying off existing tax liabilities.
If brought into the program, recipients can maintain their status until the age of 18, at which point, they will have to apply to renew for five years.
In the vein of “merit-based” immigration, the bill would require SUCCEED recipients to stay on one or more tracks, either through maintaining gainful employment for 48 of 60 months, earning a postsecondary/vocational degree, or serving honorably in the military for at least three years.
If a SUCCEED recipient fulfills their merit requirements, they can apply for a another five-year renewal. After this period, they become eligible for a green card. And finally, after another five-year waiting period, they can apply for naturalization.
The bill also explicitly bars “chain migration” by preventing individuals under the program from petitioning for their immediate family.
And, Tillis and Lankford have made it clear that the SUCCEED Act must be paired with border security protections.
It seems clear that the bill is meant to pander to anti-immigrant members of Congress. Instead, they could be working in a nonpartisan way to pass the original DREAM Act—which already has strong support from Americans, regardless of political orientation.
Antonio Alarcon, youth organizer at Make the Road New York, stated that the solution has been the same ever since the DREAM Act was conceived 16 years ago.
“We demand that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell immediately allow for a vote on a clean DREAM Act, without trying to use us as bargaining chips for more money for out-of-control border control and immigration enforcement,” Alarcon stated.
Back in July, House Democrat Luis Gutierrez of Illinois introduced the American Hope Act backed by 116 co-sponsors, meant to provide a permanent legislative solution for DACA recipients.
Unlike the SUCCEED Act, this bill does not needlessly focus on “merit” requirements. This is bolstered by the fact that Dreamers are already high achievers, with most working full-time and enriching themselves through education, sometimes all at once.
The bill also provides a far more reasonable path to citizenship, granting eight years at a time as a conditional permanent resident, including eligibility for a green card within three years. Additionally, the time a Dreamer was granted DACA would count toward the three-year period.
After five years as a conditional permanent resident, a green card holder, or a combination of the two, the individual can qualify for naturalization.
Although the American Hope Act brings to the table strong reforms that would fill the DACA void, the DREAM Act is the ideal and only viable solution, short of comprehensive immigration reform.