Last week, Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the SUCCEED Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States at a young age. While it is encouraging to see these senators proposing a permanent pathway to citizenship, the SUCCEED Act is significantly more restrictive than bipartisan bills such as the Dream Act, and it fails to provide true protection to Dreamers.
Here are four ways that the SUCCEED Act misses the mark:
1. The pathway to citizenship is too long, and too few people can access it.
An eligible Dreamer would have to spend a total of 15 years—10 years as a conditional permanent resident (CPR) and another five as a lawful permanent resident (LPR)—before completing the pathway to citizenship. For the average DACA recipient, who is 25 years old, that means they would not complete the path until age 40. And unlike the Dream Act, the SUCCEED Act also has an age cap: Eligible Dreamers would have had to be under age 31 as of June 2012. This provision would particularly penalize older Dreamers who still came to the country at a young age but have been waiting years, if not decades, for the U.S. Congress to protect them. This would create the perverse result that people who came to America at a young age and have the longest ties to the country are barred from remaining where they have lived in for—at a minimum—20 years.
Under the SUCCEED Act, any Dreamer who applies for CPR status would have to sign a waiver that says if she or he violates any part of the pathway to status, they would be ineligible for any other form of relief—other than limited relief based on the U.N. Convention Against Torture—and could even be subject to expedited removal, without any ability to go before a judge and make their case or to appeal their deportation.
3. The bill would lead to the separation of families.
The bill also places a limit on the ability of Dreamers in LPR status—which they get to only after the 10-year waiting period in conditional status—to sponsor their close family members for permanent residency, something that current law has allowed for decades. This provision is included because of a misguided fear about “chain migration,” of people who gain status under the law sponsoring their relatives to come to the United States. But let’s be clear—when opponents of the Dream Act talk of stopping chain migration, what they really mean is keeping parents from their children as well as husbands and wives from their spouses. Penalizing Dreamers for wanting to reunite with their families will undoubtedly lead to families separated through detention and deportation.
4. The bill goes far beyond Dreamers to impose new, onerous restrictions on legal immigration.
In addition to stripping Dreamers of due process rights, the bill also penalizes immigrants coming to the United States on a temporary basis. The bill would create a new requirement that no temporary, or nonimmigrant, visa be issued unless the individual sign away any right to even contest their deportation or have a hearing in front of a judge—the most basic of due process rights—in the future if they violate any term of their visa or fail to leave when their authorized period of stay expires. This would include individuals who accidentally overstay their visas, even by as little as one day, and would also include those who inadvertently violate the terms of their visa, such as a student who falls just below a full course of study.
Ensuring that people do not overstay their visas is an important part of immigration policy. However, affording no discretion to account for innocent mistakes and stripping the opportunity to make their case for protection or to adjust to permanent status—if, for example, they later marry an American citizen—will only create more people living in limbo.
Not only is the SUCCEED Act inadequate as a way of protecting Dreamers, but its sponsors have argued that the bill “must be paired with a border security solution,” meaning that Sens. Tillis and Lankford believe it should only move as one part of an overall package of anti-immigrant legislation. Instead of using Dreamers as a bargaining chip for more immigration enforcement, the bipartisan Dream Act would provide proper protections for these young people. Congress should take up a clean version of the Dream Act—without tacking on other punitive provisions—and pass it immediately.
Philip E. Wolgin is the managing director for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. He thanks Lia Parada and Tom Jawetz of the Center, as well as Greg Chen and Betsy Lawrence of the American Immigration Lawyers Association for their insights.