GOP Senators Unveil Merit Based Path to Citizenship for 'Dreamers'
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Republicans are trying hard to fulfill President Trump's request for a legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients before the program is rescinded in March.
Senators Thom Tillis, R - N.C., and James Lankford, R - Okla., unveiled the SUCCEED Act this week. It requires undocumented children to earn legal status through a five step, 15 year process. The senators say the program is designed to protect these children, known as "dreamers", while not encouraging or rewarding illegal immigration.
The bill is seen as a more conservative alternative to the bipartisan Dream Act which Senator Tillis say does not have the votes to pass the Senate.
"This bill I believe is a fair and orderly method for providing a permanent solution for the DACA children, it will not allow chain migration," said Senator Tillis in a press conference Monday.
"This act is about the children, it's completely merit based. If you work hard, if you follow the law and you pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently." continued Tillis.
The bill calls for participants to meet the following standards in order to be eligible for the program:
- Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent (if over 18 years of age).
- Arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and present since June 15, 2012.
- Pass a thorough criminal background check.
- Submit biometric and biographic data to DHS.
- Pay off any existing tax liabilities.
- Be a person of good moral character as defined by current U.S. law.
- Sign a waiver from future immigration benefits if they violate certain terms of their status.
If individuals meet all the eligibility requirements, they can then apply for "Conditional Permanent Residence" (CPR) and keep their status until they turn 18. After eligible individuals turn 18, they can apply for a five year renewal of their CPR status during which time they will have to complete one of three merit-based tracks:
- Maintain gainful employment for 48 out of 60 months.
- Earn a postsecondary/vocational degree.
- Serve honorably in the military for at least three years.
Individuals who meet one of those requirements during the five year period can then re-apply for another five year CPR. Once participants complete 10 years of conditional permanent residence and prove they are productive, law abiding members of society, they can become eligible for a green card. After a minimum five-year wait period as a green card holder, then they can apply for naturalization.
To combat chain migration, participants will not be able to petition for relatives to become U.S. citizens until they are through the 15 year process.
"We think hundreds of thousands, maybe more than a million, could be eligible under this program," says Tillis. "We have to set a high bar and send a very clear message that people wanting to come to this country should consider doing it legally."
Senator Tillis says the Succeed Act is not designed to be a stand alone bill, and their goal is to add it to a more comprehensive immigration plan that passes before the current DACA program expires.
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