President Donald Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a permanent solution for the immigration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, when he announced in September that he was ending it. Whatever decision Congress makes will affect approximately 800,000 people commonly referred to as "dreamers," those who were brought as children to the United States by their undocumented parents.
Only 154,000 out of 800,000 undocumented immigrants whose work permits expired before March qualified for renewal, leaving the rest to expire after that.
Former President Barack Obama introduced DACA in 2012 as an administrative program, giving eligible recipients temporary protection from deportation. "Dreamers" were allowed to reside in the U.S. for two years without fear of being deported, and afterward to keep their DACA status by paying a renewal fee every three years. DACA recipients were given the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license, enroll in college and work legally in the United States. The program does not confer permanent residency status or provide a path to citizenship.
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As Congress grapples with the year-end spending bill needed to keep the federal government operating, Republicans have warned Democrats not to force negotiations on DACA as part of the talks. But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in a statement released after they accepted the president’s invitation to meet with him and Republicans leaders, said lawmakers must together pass one of the bills under consideration, the Dream Act, along with tough border security measures. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted earlier this month: “I won’t vote for any spending bill without a permanent DACA fix.”
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona also has said that the Trump administration and Senate leaders had agreed to work on protections for DACA recipients in return for his support of the tax bill just approved by the Senate.
And in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, 34 Republicans urged him to bring a “permanent solution” to the floor before the end of the year.
Here are the proposals from Republicans and Democrats that could determine the future of DACA recipients:
Days after the announcement of Trump’s decision to end DACA, Republican Senators Thom Tillis, of North Carolina, and James Lankford, of Oklahoma, announced the Succeed Act, a long-term solution for DACA that would give those eligible a 15-year path to citizenship. To prevent chain migration, in which U.S. citizens or permanent residents can sponsor family members such as spouses or children, the bill would terminate the current law giving green card holders that prerogative. As under DACA, individuals must have arrived before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. before June 15, 2012.
Each applicant would have to undergo a background check, have a high school diploma, pay off tax liabilities, submit biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security and sign a waiver saying that if any terms were violated certain benefits will be revoked.
“This act is about the children,” Tillis said. “It’s completely merit based. If you work hard, if you follow the law, and you pay taxes, you can stay here permanently.”
If the merit-based tracks were met, applicants would be given Conditional Permanent Residence or CPS for 10 years, during which they would have to earn a college degree or serve in the military for at least three years. Those who met the requirements would be able to apply for a green card, and then wait another five years before they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Tillis told Business Insider that the act was not “standalone legislation and would most likely be paired with border security.” His comment prompted an outcry from immigration advocates demanding a “clean Dream Act,” separate from the border wall.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, who has shown his support for another proposal, the Dream Act, said Tillis and Lankford’s bill was the most likely to pass.
The DREAM Act of 2017
Unlike DACA, the Dream Act provides a path to citizenship for "dreamers" who meet its requirements. Hatch and Sen. Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, originally introduced the Dream Act in 2001, but it failed to pass during the Bush and Obama administrations.
Durbin and Sen. Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, sponsored this newer version, which was introduced in July.
The 2017 Dream Act would require recipients to have lived at least four years in the U.S. They cannot have left the country for more than 180 days, although any travel authorized by the Department of Homeland Security would not be counted.
The bill would raise the age limit to 18. Recipients would have to meet educational, work or military requirements similar to those under DACA and pass a background check.
This bill would provide a path to citizenship for "dreamers" and holders of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which is granted to citizens of selected countries afflicted by natural disasters or war. They could apply for CPS status and then after eight years, for Legal Permanent Status, or LPR. Recipients must not have left their residence in the U.S or have a criminal history. They also must have acquired a degree, completed two years of a bachelor’s degree, served in the military for two years or have been employed for at least three years. After five years with LPR, for a total waiting period of 13 years, individuals would be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
The American Hope Act
Similar to the Dream Act, the American Hope Act would grant undocumented youth and DACA recipients’ permanent status that could eventually lead to citizenship. Democratic Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, of Illinois, introduced the bill on July 28, for children who arrived before their 18th birthday and lived in the U.S. before 2016. All applicants would be required to go through a background check and must have not committed a criminal offense.
Eligible applicants would be given the opportunity to apply for legal status through CPR, which would allow them to live and work in the U.S. legally for three years. During that time, applicants must not have left the country or committed any offense that could lead to deportation.
For DACA recipients, the time they had DACA status would count toward their CPR status, making the process to apply for LPR status quicker. After five years with LPR status, DACA recipients would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
“All of us here support DACA,” Gutierrez said. “We fought for DACA and we will defend DACA. And the defense includes putting on the table legislation that charts a way forward.”
Gutierrez’s congressional website says that over 110 representatives have co-sponsored the bill.
Recognizing America’s Children (RAC)
Republican Rep. Carlos Curberlo, of Florida, announced the Recognizing America’s Children bill in March, under which "dreamers" could apply for citizenship after a decade.
Recipients must have lived in the United States since 2012, arrived before the age of 16, pass a background check and meet education requirements. Undocumented youth with deportation orders are not eligible to apply.
During a five year period with CPR status, individuals over the age of 18 who are eligible must have enrolled in a higher education institution, enlisted in the military or have been employed for a total of 48 months. Recipients will need to reapply for another five years with CPR, but once their renewal is approved, they will be allowed to apply for LPR.
The Bridge Act
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, of Colorado, introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy, or Bridge Act, earlier this year, which would continue to protect DACA recipients from deportation. Their work permits would be valid for the next three years, giving Congress time to pursue permanent immigration reform. The difference between the Bridge Act and the other bills is that it does not include a path to citizenship.