No one in America, from all sides of the political spectrum, thinks the current immigration system works well. It hasn’t been updated in 30-plus years and the lack of action has led to a system that has incentivized illegal immigration and encouraged parents to take their children on the dangerous and often deadly trek across our southern border.
Essentially, Congress ignoring the problem has actually encouraged more illegal immigration and facilitated a form of amnesty. It is past time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and finally address our border security and immigration problems. An easy start is by fixing the DACA issue, an overreaching President Obama Executive Order that should have been addressed by Congress.
On September 5, after rescinding the DACA Executive Order, with a six-month delay, President Trump said in a statement, “As President, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.” The president is absolutely right.
However, the fact that as Americans we do not hold children criminally liable for the actions of their parents does not mean that these young people should benefit from their parent’s illegal actions by receiving citizenship faster than those who followed the legal processes already in place.
Last week, we introduced the SUCCEED Act, a conservative legislative solution to fix DACA. We are stepping up to do what Mr. Trump, and the American people, have asked Congress to do.
The bill provides a fair, multistep process to give DACA kids a home, while also prohibiting chain migration during the process, and discouraging future illegal immigration. The SUCCEED Act only covers young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents before the age of 16 and before June 15, 2012, the enactment date of DACA. They must follow one of three specific merit-based pathways in order to earn legalization: 1) they must be gainfully employed, 2) they must purse postsecondary or vocational education, or 3) they must serve in the U.S. military.
For those not born in the U.S., naturalization is earned, it is not given away. The individuals who will utilize the SUCCEED Act have spent most of their life in this country, but they must still work for, and earn, the right to become an American citizen.
They must also pass a thorough criminal background check, which extends to information obtained from INTERPOL or the country of origin to screen for individuals with a criminal past or gang affiliation. Our bill would make them ineligible for immigration benefits or welfare benefits, they must pay all tax liabilities, and submit biometric and biographic data to the Department of Homeland Security.
While Democrats continue to believe that Congress must vote on the DREAM Act again, the fact of the matter is that versions of the DREAM Act have already been introduced in multiple Congresses and have gone nowhere in more than a decade.
In 2007, the DREAM Act failed in the Senate. In 2010, with a Democrat-controlled Congress and White House, it also failed to pass. And in 2013, it was included in an immigration package that passed the Senate, but failed in the House. Since it cannot pass Congress, we need a better alternative that can actually pass this Congress. The SUCCEED Act is that better alternative: it’s merit-based, not a free pass.
The SUCCEED Act explicitly bars chain migration during the legal process. Unlike other green-card holders, these young people could not sponsor foreign-born relatives for entry into the United States, under the SUCCEED Act. Our bill also bars any benefits or special treatment for the parents or relatives of these undocumented children.
We wrote the SUCCEED Act with the understanding that any immigration bill must include measures to stop illegal immigration or else we will never solve the problem. That’s why we included a provision that helps stop future illegal immigration by directly addressing one of its main sources: visa overstays.
One other important point. We believe this bill should be paired with other immigration solutions, especially border security. There are major interior immigration enforcement issues that are also needed in the future, including e-verify. It is time for Congress to take on these problems in a reasonable, step-by-step process to give certainty to American families, businesses and those seeking to legally come to this country.
The president has challenged Congress to act and he’s given us a deadline to do so. The American people elected us to get stuff done. Here is an opportunity to discourage future illegal immigration and address this issue in a fair way for DACA students to earn residency.
• James Lankford is a Republican U.S. senator representing Oklahoma. Thom Tillis is a Republican U.S. senator representing North Carolina.