2017-2018 LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS
In the aftereffects of the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke on September 5, 2017, legislative proposals attempting to address U.S. immigration are under intense scrutiny. Both Democrats and Republicans introduced bills aimed at addressing deportation relief for eligible individuals brought to the U.S. as minors, known as Dreamers. The bills vary in scope and application; furthermore, not all proposals set forth a path to U.S. citizenship. The range of provisions in the various bills is striking, particularly as it reflects divided public opinion on issues pertaining to immigration. The following is a brief overview of the bills.
THE DREAM ACT
- The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act
- S. 1615 — Dream Act of 2017
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced July 20, 2017, by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the Senate.
- Introduced July 26, 2017, by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Ca.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in the House (H.R. 3440).
- Ten cosponsors in the Senate, consisting of three Republicans and seven Democrats; two hundred cosponsors in the House, mostly Democrats.
The Dream Act was first introduced in 2001, with several subsequent versions that never passed. The most recent version, introduced in the Senate on July 20, 2017, cancels removal of eligible persons and provides a three-step path to U.S. citizenship based on certain conditions and requirements.
The bill allows for Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status by directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel removal and grant lawful permanent resident status on a conditional basis for a period of up to eight years to a person who is inadmissible or deportable or is in temporary protected status who: (1) has been continuously physically present in the United States for four years preceding the bill’s enactment; (2) was younger than 18 years of age on the initial date of U.S. entry; (3) is not inadmissible on criminal, security, terrorism, or other grounds; (4) has not participated in persecution; (5) has not been convicted of specified federal or state offenses; and (6) has fulfilled specified educational requirements. Furthermore, the bill provides that DHS shall cancel the removal of, and adjust to the status of a person lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis, a person who was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status unless the person has engaged in conduct that would make him/her ineligible for DACA.
A person who has maintained CPR status for the required eight-year period would be eligible to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status when he/she has done one of the following: acquired a degree from an institution of higher education, completed at least two years in a bachelor’s degree program, or served for at least two years in the uniformed services; or been employed for periods totaling at least three years, at least 75 percent of which time was working with valid employment authorization.
Additionally, he/she must demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; show a knowledge and understanding of U.S. civics; pass a background check; not have certain criminal convictions on their record; and not have abandoned their residence in the U.S. Individuals who cannot meet one of these requirements can apply for a hardship waiver under certain circumstances.
A person may apply for U.S. citizenship after adjusting to and maintaining LPR status for five years.
The act also includes provisions that would prohibit the government from using information from DACA applications for immigration enforcement and encourages states to offer higher education benefits to students in the country illegally.
THE BRIDGE ACT
- The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act
- H.R.496, S. 128 — BRIDGE Act
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced January 12, 2017, by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the Senate and in the House by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
- Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on February 6, 2017.
- Motion to Discharge Committee filed on September 5, 2017, by Mr. Coffman. Petition No: 115-4.
- Nine cosponsors in the Senate (three Republicans and six Democrats) and thirty-one cosponsors in the House, both Democrats and Republicans.
The Bridge Act does not provide a path for U.S. citizenship; rather, the bill would basically set the current DACA program into law and extend it for three years, allowing Congress additional time to put together legislation to address the U.S. immigration system. The Bridge Act offers eligible individuals relief from deportation and work authorization for a three-year period.
This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): (1) shall grant a three-year provisional protected presence to a qualifying person, (2) may not remove the person from the U.S. unless such protected presence is rescinded, and (3) shall provide such person with employment authorization.
A person is eligible for such protected presence and employment authorization if the person: (1) was born after June 15, 1981; (2) entered the U.S. before 16 years of age; (3) continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; (4) was physically but unlawfully present in the U.S. on June 15; (5) on the date the person files an application, he/she is present in the U.S., is enrolled in school or in an education program assisting students in obtaining a high school diploma, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school or a general educational development certificate, or is an honorably discharged U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces veteran; (6) has not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors not occurring on the same date and not arising out of the same act; and (7) does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or a threat to public safety.
THE RAISE ACT
- S. 354 — The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced February 13, 2017, by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in Senate; read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
- A revised version of the bill, S. 1720, was introduced by Sen. Cotton on August 2, 2017; also referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
- Introduced September 14, 2017, by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) in the House (H.R. 3775).
- One Republican cosponsor in the Senate and twenty Republican cosponsors in the House.
The Raise Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, seeks to reduce legal immigration to the U.S. by 50% by reducing the number of green cards issued from 1 million to 500,000; to establish a skills-based immigration points system; to restrict family-sponsored immigration to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, eliminating the path to citizenship for siblings and adult children; to eliminate the Diversity Visa Program; to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. 50,000; and for other purposes.
The points-based system would evaluate potential immigrants on their education level, English language ability, high-paying job offers, age, and record of achievement.
THE RAC ACT
- H.R. 1468 — Recognizing America’s Children Act
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced March 9, 2017, by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) in the House, referred to the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on March 22, 2017.
- Thirty-four cosponsors, mostly Republican, as well as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.).
The RAC Act provides a four-step path to citizenship for eligible persons, setting forth lengthier time commitments in higher education, the military or the workforce.
This bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel the removal of, and adjust to CPR status for an initial five-year period of a person who:
- Was younger than 16 years old when he/she initially entered the United States and has been physically present in the United States since January 1, 2012;
- Is a person of good moral character;
- Is not inadmissible or deportable on specified grounds under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
- Has not participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;
- Has not been convicted of certain offenses under federal or state law;
- Is 18 years or older and has earned a high school diploma, general education development certificate, or high school equivalency diploma in the United States, has been admitted to an institution of higher education, or has a valid work authorization; and
- Has never been under a final order of exclusion, deportation, or removal unless he/she has remained in the United States under color of law after such order’s issuance or received the order before attaining the age of 18.
A person may reapply to keep and extend his/her CPR status for a second, five-year period. Applicants over age 18 must have fulfilled one of the following: (1) enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education in the U.S. within one year after obtaining CPR status, and remained enrolled; or (2) been employed for a total period of forty-eight months during the five-year period since obtaining CPR status; or (3) enlisted in the armed forces within nine months of obtaining his/her CPR status.
A person who meets certain requirements may apply for LPR status after receiving the second, five-year CPR. It is not required that he/she waits until the second, five-year period ends. However, he/she must apply for LPR status within ten years of receiving his/her initial CPR status.
After the above referenced LPR adjustment, he/she may apply for U.S. citizenship upon compliance with all immigration law requirements.
THE HOPE ACT
- H.R. 3591 — American Hope Act of 2017
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced July 28, 2017, by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in the House.
- One hundred fifty-six Democratic cosponsors.
- Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, September 6, 2017.
This bill amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to allow a state to extend higher-education benefits to state residents, regardless of whether they are lawfully present in the United States.
In addition, the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel the removal, and adjust the status, of certain residents who entered the United States as children prior to 2017. An individual whose status has been so adjusted shall be considered to have obtained conditional permanent-resident status, valid for a period of eight years and subject to termination on the basis of specified deportable conduct.
In order for an individual’s conditional status (CPR) to become permanent (LPR), the individual must timely file with DHS a petition indicating, among other specified information, that the individual has maintained CPR status for at least three years. Any period of time in which the individual was granted deferred action pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy shall count toward this three-year period. Information furnished by an individual in such a petition may not be used by an officer or employee of the United States to initiate removal proceedings.
The bill also: (1) allows DHS to establish a competitive grant program for the provision of nonprofit assistance to eligible applicants for conditional permanent-resident status; (2) establishes the Presidential Award for Business Leadership in Promoting American Citizenship; (3) allows the Department of Education to develop an open-source, electronic English-learning program; (4) specifies requirements related to federal higher-education assistance for individuals with conditional permanent-resident status; and (5) requires the Government Accountability Office to report on specified data related to the bill.
THE SUCCEED ACT
- The Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers Employment Education and Defending our Nation Act
- S. 1852 — SUCCEED Act
- 115th Congress (2017-2018)
- Introduced September 25, 2017, by Sen.Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in the Senate, read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
- Two Republican cosponsors.
The Succeed Act provides a fifteen-year, four-step path to U.S. citizenship. This bill allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cancel the removal of a person who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States and grant him/her CPR status under this Act, if he/she: (A) has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period since June 15, 2012; (B) was younger than 16 years of age on the date on which he/she initially entered the United States; (C) was younger than 31 years of age and had no lawful status in the United States on June 15, 2012; (D) if 18 years of age or older, has, while in the U.S., earned a high school diploma or GED, been admitted to an institution of higher education in the U.S., or has served, is serving, or has enlisted in the Armed Forces of the U.S.; (E) if younger than 18 years of age, is attending or has enrolled in primary or secondary school, or is attending or has enrolled in a postsecondary school; (F) has been a person of good moral character, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act since the date on which he/she initially entered the U.S.; (G) has paid any applicable Federal tax liability or has agreed to cure such liability through a payment installment plan that has been approved by the IRS; (H) has not participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, is not inadmissible or deportable on specified grounds under the Immigration and Nationality Act, has ever been convicted of certain criminal offenses; and (I) has never been under a final order of deportation or removal.
The bill provides that a person may reapply to keep and extend his/her CPR status for a second, five-year period, under certain conditions and requirements, including graduation from or completion of eight semesters at an institute of higher education, service in the military for three years, or employment for four years.
A person may then apply for LPR status after receiving his/her second, five-year CPR, under the provisions set forth in the bill. Unlike the RAC Act, however, he/she must be able to show ten years of CPR status before application for adjustment. Thereafter, he/she may apply for U.S. citizenship upon compliance with all immigration law requirements, which typically includes a five-year residency requirement.
Additionally, applicants must sign a waiver that would forfeit any future immigration benefits if they violate the terms of their status. The bill also prevents parents of undocumented children from receiving benefits and children from petitioning for their parents’ citizenship.