Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, announced a new proposal on Monday that could create a pathway to legalization for young undocumented immigrants in place of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The bill, titled the SUCCEED Act, would provide undocumented children with the opportunity to earn and keep legal status if they meet specific requirements, pass an extensive criminal background check and follow one or a combination of three merit-based tracks to demonstrate they are productive members of their communities.
Tillis is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. James Lankford, R-OK.
“The SUCCEED Act, I believe, is a fair, compassionate, merit-based solution to the challenge we have with children who came here through no fault of their own and now find themselves uncertain about their future in this country,” Tillis said in a press conference. “It resolves that uncertainty surrounding their legal status — for children.”
“If you work hard, if you follow the law and you pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently,” he said.
To be eligible under the SUCCEED Act, an immigrant must have been in the United States since the start of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — June 15, 2012 — and must have been under the age of 16 upon arrival. They would be required to obtain a high school diploma, pass a thorough criminal background check, submit biographic data to the Department of Homeland Security and pay off any back taxes or establish a repayment plan.
President Donald Trump’s administration ended DACA — the product of executive action by former president Barack Obama — Sept. 5.
Unlike DACA, which provided temporary protection for immigrants under the age of 16 who were brought to the United States illegally, the SUCCEED Act outlines a 15-year path to citizenship.
Under the act, undocumented immigrants must apply for “conditional permanent resident” status, which they must maintain for 10 years before applying for a formal green card. Those classified under this status must either earn a college degree, serve in the military for at least three years or be consistently employed. Once immigrants obtain a green card, they must wait five years before applying for citizenship.
The SUCCEED Act would also limit undocumented immigrants’ current ability to obtain green cards through petitioning documented family members. The act does not provide benefits for the relatives of undocumented children in the United States.
“The people who are moving through the green card process are people who have gone through the process legally over a period of time,” Tillis said in the press conference. “This is a special group of people we want to provide a solution to but not necessarily let them expedite the potential admission of other persons.”
Lankford said in the press conference he does not want to encourage future illegal activity by giving special treatment to adults who bring children when they come into the country illegally.
“I don’t want to reward the adults for bringing a child with them when they did it,” he said.
Most DACA recipients would be eligible to participate in the process outlined in the SUCCEED Act as long as they maintain a clean criminal record and commit to one of the three merit-based tracks.
The bill also includes provisions to prevent future illegal immigration. The SUCCEED Act will be paired with a border security solution aimed to stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and drug trafficking along the border.
“This could be in place by the time DACA expires, and the president says he’s not going to renew it anymore at that moment,” Lankford said. “It could be in place, but it’s not a stand alone. We have to resolve the other aspects. We have to continue to be able to build a coalition around this.”
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