Washington – Prodded by President Donald Trump to act to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth from deportation, two conservative Republicans on Monday introduced a bill to do so.
Connecticut immigrants and their advocates says the effort misses the mark.
Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and James Lankford, R-Okla., have sponsored the “SUCCEED Act,” legislation that would legalize the status of undocumented children brought into this country by their parent who qualify.
The bill also would provide a pathway to citizenship to those youth, who call themselves “dreamers,” but only after 15 years.
Trump is phasing out a program established by former President Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that protects eligible youths from deportation and provides them with work permits. The president said Obama misused his executive authority and asked Congress to pass a law that would protect these youths.
To qualify under the SUCCEED Act, immigrants must have been in the United States since June 15, 2012 — the start of the DACA program – and arrived before the age of 16. They would be required to obtain a high school diploma and pass a “thorough” criminal background check.
Those who qualified would be given “conditional permanent residence” status, which they would have to maintain for 10 years before they could apply for a formal green card. During that 10-year period, dreamers would be required to either earn a college degree, serve in the military for at least three years or be consistently employed.
Once they obtain green cards, immigrant youths would be required to wait for five years until they could apply for U.S. citizenship.
Unlike other citizens, the dreamers would be barred from petitioning for their undocumented parents to obtain legal status.
And dreamers would be required to sign a waiver that would allow federal immigration officials to deport them without an immigration hearing if they violate the bill’s provisions.
“We think it’s a balanced resolution for a vexing problem that hasn’t been solved for 30 years, and we’ll have to take the hits,” Tillis said Monday when asked to address the expected criticism of the SUCCEED Act.
About 10,000 immigrant youth in Connecticut are in danger of losing their DACA protections.
But Camila Bortolleto, a DACA recipient and activist with Connecticut Students for a Dream, said she prefers legislation known as the DREAM Act, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill, that would provide dreamers a quicker path to citizenship and has fewer restrictions.
“Trump and Republicans are responsible for the termination of DACA and the chaos that has come with the end of protection from deportation for immigrant youth. Congress should work to pass the only solution supported by both parties, a clean bipartisan DREAM Act,” Bortolleto said.
Durbin said he is grateful for the effort, but “unfortunately the Tillis-Lankford bill falls short.”
“I again urge the Republican leadership in Congress to bring the bipartisan Dream Act to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. The deportation countdown clock for these young people is ticking,” Durbin said.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigrant advocacy group, said “dreamers are young Americans, and the American people want Congress to enact legislation that finally and formally recognizes this fact. Unfortunately, new legislation… falls far short of meeting this test.”