Republican senators Monday introduced a bill that, if passed, would create a pathway to citizenship for potentially more than 2 million undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
Senators Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, along with co-sponsors James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, announced the Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education, and Defending our Nation in a news conference Monday afternoon in Washington.
"This act is about the children. It is completely merit-based. If you work hard, if you follow the law and you pay your taxes, you can stay here permanently," Tillis said.
A 10-year commitment
If passed, the bill — referred to by its acronym as the SUCCEED Act — would require recipients to remain in a so-called "conditional permanent residency" for five years, while either consistently working, studying, or serving in the military.
They could then re-apply for a second five-year conditional term.
After a decade under the program, recipients are able to have the conditions lifted, and obtain full permanent residency, which is a precursor to a citizenship application.
Polling data released in the last week shows Americans overwhelmingly support actions to legalize the immigration status of those who came to the U.S. as children.
President Donald Trump's administration announced in early September that it was ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy.
The executive branch mandated the two-year, renewable relief measures from deportation for some undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, and allowed them to work legally. DACA fell short of allowing a path to citizenship, leaving the approximately 800,000 recipients from 2012-2017 in a semi-legal status.
DACA created in 2012
Trump has framed his decision to end the policy as a push for Congress to pass similar legislation.
DACA was created through a 2012 Homeland Security memo and heartily supported by then-President Barack Obama after lawmakers failed to push comprehensive immigration reform through Congress. Without a new law covering them, hundreds of thousands of recipients will return to a fully undocumented status and be subject to deportation when their current DACA status approvals expire in the coming two years.
The SUCCEED Act is not the long-sought comprehensive immigration reform that has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress. Its sponsors said the bill was not a "stand-alone" piece of legislation, and suggested it could ultimately be part of a broader bill or in conjunction with border security legislation.