Earlier this month, hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, President Donald Trump gave Congress a puzzling ultimatum: "legalize" the program in the next six months, or he would "revisit" it. On Monday, three Republican senators announced the SUCCEED Act, an answer to the DACA repeal.
According to a tweet from Sen. Thom Tillis, who introduced SUCCEED along with Sens. James Lankford and Orrin Hatch introduced, SUCCEED is based on four core principles of "compassion," "prevention," "merit," and "fairness." The legislation gives DACA recipients the option to pursue "one or a combo of three merit-based pathways to earn conditional status."
In order to receive the "conditional status" Tillis speaks of, recipients must be employed, serving in the U.S. military, or pursuing post-secondary education. Those seeking "protected status" have much more stringent requirements: Recipients must have arrived in the country before they turned 16 years old, have received a high school diploma, have passed a criminal background check, and be able to pay off whatever federal tax liabilities they may have. On top of these requisites, SUCCEED recipients would have to turn over their biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security.
Tillis, though, made all of this sound simple on Monday. "If you work hard, follow the law and pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently," he said.
It's as easy as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The legislation doesn't extend such a courtesy to the family members of SUCCEED recipients. According to Politico, which obtained the bill's details ahead of its release, SUCCEED doesn't allow Dreamers to sponsor family members. This stipulation will likely please Trump, who just this month took aim at "chain migration," the term he used in a Sept. 15 tweet to describe the practice of United States citizens helping their family members enter the country. At the time, Trump said any immigration legislation must put an end to this so-called practice.
"The people are who moving through the green card process are people who've gone through the process legally over a period of time," Tillis explained to Politico. "This is a special group of people that we want to provide a solution to, but not necessarily let them expedite the potential admission of other persons."
That SUCCEED meets this requirement makes the legislation much more appealing to not just Trump, who reportedly told Republican senators he was "very supportive" of the act, but to many other conservatives who'd been unhappy with DACA.
It's this very measure, however, that's part of what makes immigration rights advocates highly critical of the legislation.
Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of immigration reform group America's Voice, told the outlet that it seemed to him that the government was unfairly targeting DACA recipients with this provision.
"None of these provisions are applied to other groups of admitted immigrants," Sharry said. "Why, then, does this bill send this group of young Americans to the back of the bus?"
Hatch, though, insists that the SUCCEED Act recognizes the talent and potential of the young immigrants DACA sought to protect. What's more, he hopes SUCCEED will at least begin to put fiery partisan debates over immigration reform — stoked by Trump's previous controversial remarks about Latino immigrants and fervent dreams of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — to rest.
"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. We need to develop a solution that will recognize the positive contributions that Dreamers can make to our society."