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Republicans' new immigration bill could derail Democrats' attempt to bring up the DREAM Act

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program rally on Olivera Street in Los Angeles, California, September 5, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program rally on Olivera Street in Los Angeles, California, September 5, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

( Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program rally on Oli vera Street in Los Angeles, California Thomson Reuters)
WASHINGTON — A group of Republican senators unveiled a long-awaited legislative fix to assess the recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, just as Democrats are preparing an attempt to force a vote on the DREAM Act.

Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and original DREAM Act co-author Orrin Hatch introduced the SUCCEED Act on Monday, which includes a pathway to citizenship on the condition that "merit-based" rules are followed.

The bill would require DACA recipients who arrived in the US under age 16 and before June 15, 2012 to adhere to a number of eligibility requirements for conditional status, including:

  • Passing a criminal background check

  • Paying off tax liabilities

  • Submitting biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security

  • And signing a waiver that would revoke certain benefits if they violate status terms

While the bill is absent any additional border-security provisions like the White House has demanded, Tillis said it is not "standalone" legislation and would likely be paired with border security.

The bill also includes a pathway to naturalization more than 15 years after it would come into effect and all the criteria is followed. Tillis shrugged off the notion their pathway to citizenship qualified as amnesty.

"This is a path that admittedly at some point allows someone to go through the naturalization process," Tillis said. "But we think that it’s a balanced resolution to a vexing problem that hasn’t been solved for 30 years and we’ll have to take the hits. We’ll take the hits on the far left saying ‘you’re not getting them to citizenship soon enough’ and you’ll take it on the far right for saying you’re ever giving them an opportunity to pursue citizenship after they’ve done all that’s required of them to continue to have the protected status that’s in this bill."

And despite the pathway to citizenship and absence of border-security provisions, Lankford said President Trump during private conversations was on board with many of the bill’s finer details.

"The president was very outspoken when I walked him through the details of it," Lankford said. "He said that’s exactly the kind of solution that I think would work and would be a good option to be able to accomplish."

But key Democrats are already dismissing the bill. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said in a statement that the SUCCEED Act would "fall short."

"In contrast to the bipartisan Dream Act, their bill excludes tens of thousands of Dreamers who came to the United States as children, have lived here for decades, and have clean criminal records, based solely on arbitrary date cutoffs," Durbin said.

And Monday evening, House Democrats introduced a discharge petition to bring the DREAM Act to the floor.

A discharge petition, if supported by at least 218 members of the House, forces legislation to be brought to the floor, regardless of whether the Speaker OKs it. But Democrats only control 194 seats, meaning they will have to get 24 Republicans to sign on.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that while he has not received commitments from any Republicans that they would sign the discharge petition, he is confident it would pass if brought to the floor.

But one of Tillis' major focuses on crafting the bill was ensuring it could someday make it to the president's desk for a signature, noting that the DREAM Act has been stuck in Congress for a decade.

"The DREAM Act... has failed every single time," Tillis said. "So why are people drawing hard lines around something that doesn’t look like it has the votes to get out of the Senate and if it did, probably not out of the House?"

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