The Department of Homeland Security's announcement on September 5, 2017, officially ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, has created new momentum in Congress for legislation that would protect young undocumented immigrants, or "Dreamers." While Congress has made many failed attempts to pass such legislation since the DREAM Act was introduced in 2001, many hope that the sense of urgency imparted by DACA's termination will spur congressional action. After all, now that the "wind down" of the DACA program has begun, Congress must pass Dreamer legislation in the next five months or accept that hundreds of thousands of young people who have lived most of their lives in the United States will be subject to deportation. (For our prior blog post regarding the end of DACA, click here).
Several bills have been introduced in Congress, but the bills that have garnered the most support so far are the DREAM Act and the SUCCEED Act. While both bills would provide a pathway to citizenship for many young immigrants, the SUCCEED Act includes draconian provisions that would restrict the rights of its beneficiaries, as well as the rights of foreign national nonimmigrant visa holders, in unprecedented ways. As the debate over Dreamer legislation heats up over the next few months, it will be important to keep in mind the differences between these bills.
The DREAM Act intends to create a three-step path to citizenship for approximately 1.5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. First, foreign nationals who entered the U.S. before the age of 18, have been continually present in the U.S. for the past four years, and have either been accepted to an institution of higher education or have earned a high school diploma in the U.S., would be eligible to apply for conditional lawful permanent resident status. Beneficiaries could then obtain unconditional permanent resident status by either completing two years of higher education, serving in the armed forces for at least two years, or maintaining employment for three years. Beneficiaries would then be eligible to apply for citizenship through the naturalization process after five years.
While the SUCCEED Act is structurally similar to the DREAM Act, it includes many stringent restrictions that limit the immigration benefits. First, eligibility is restricted to immigrants who meet the eligibility requirements for the DREAM Act, and who were also under 31 years...