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The Process of Becoming a Legitimate American Citizen

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Introduced by Senator Thom Tillis(R-NC), the Succeed Act, or The Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education, and Defending our Nation Act, seeks to “authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain aliens who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children, and for other purposes.” (“S. 1852: SUCCEED Act” 2017). This bill is sponsored by Senators Thom Tillis, Orrin Hatch, and James Lankford, giving a conservative approach to the immigration crisis. The SUCCEED Act is seeking to solve the problem laid out by President Donald Trump, when in September he suspended DACA a program enacted under former President Barack Obama’s administration, giving Congress six months to come up with a solution to the problem. Under the SUCCEED Act, and the handy two-pager guide to the SUCCEED Act, individuals who arrived in the United States as minors, and are undocumented will be able to stay in the United States and earn a path to citizenship based on merit. The path to citizenship includes five steps. (SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

The first step to becoming a United States citizen for DACA recipients would be to meet all the eligibility requirements to attain Conditional Status. The 7 requirements to gain Conditional Status are as listed: (1)Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent (if over 18 years of age). (2) Arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and present since June 15, 2012. (3) Pass a thorough criminal background check. (4) Submit biometric and biographic data to DHS. (5) Pay off any existing tax liabilities. (6) Be a person of good moral character as defined by current U.S. law. (7) Sign a waiver from future immigration benefits if they violate certain terms of their status. (SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

After meeting all requirements for Step I, a SUCCEED Act participant must move onto Step II: Apply for and Maintain Conditional Status. Undocumented children must file for Conditional Permanent Residence, and once turning 18, they will have to apply for a five-year renewal, through which they will be required to pursue one or more of the three merit-based tracks: Maintain gainful employment for 48 out of 60 months, earn a postsecondary/vocational degree, or serve honorably in the military for at least three years.(SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

After fulfilling the requirements of Step II, participants must re-apply for Conditional Status, and have maintained the following guidelines during their initial five years of participantship: Meet their merit-based obligations, maintain a clean criminal record, and pay their taxes. (SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

After completing Step III, participants can obligate the requirements of Step IV by maintaining Conditional Permanent Residence for ten years, and have demonstrated they are a productive, law-abiding member of society, thereby after may they become eligible and apply for a Green Card or Lawful Permanent Residence. (SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

Finally, after maintaining the requirements, remaining in Lawful Permanent Residence, and waiting a mandatory 5 years in Lawful Permanent Residence, may the participant be able to complete Step V by becoming eligible to apply for the naturalization process and then doing so. (SUCCEED Act Two-Pager 2017)

In implementing the SUCCEED Act, costs would be mostly administrative, “ in running background checks, collecting biometrics, and processing cases, etc. to screen for any individuals with a criminal past or gang affiliation.” (SUCCEED Act, Thom Tillis 2017) According to the SUCCEED Act, The State Department would carry out all procedures and administrative action pertaining to the SUCCEED Act. (SUCCEED Act, GovTrack 2017) According to the National Immigration Forum, “Under the bill, 1.8 million Dreamers could be immediately eligible to apply for conditional permanent resident status if it were passed and eventually up to 2.6 million Dreamers could be eligible in total.”

In the ongoing struggle of freedom vs. order vs. equality, the SUCCEED Act seeks to restore order to a crumbling immigration system and nation plagued by illegal immigration and the aftermath of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The SUCCEED Act, as earlier stated, is a conservative approach to the problem, and a counter to the Democrat’s solution, known as the Dream Act. Senator Thom Tillis and his co-sponsors, Senator Orrin Hatch(R-UT) and President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, and Senator James Lankford (R-OK)are right-wing conservatives, and while the SUCCEED Act is the most conservative solution offered for the issue, the SUCCEED Act does not coincide with the three senators party ideology. The Republican party’s platform is run on a tough stance on immigration. As stated in the GOP’s 2016 party platform, “We oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law, have disadvantaged those who have obeyed it. America’s immigration policy must serve the national interest of the United States.” Again, while this is the farthest right solution, it is still soft(from certain Republican voter’s viewpoints) and may not satisfy all voters. However, a Gallup poll out in July found that more Republicans favored a path to citizenship than deporting unauthorized immigrants or building a wall: 76 percent versus 50 percent and 62 percent, respectively. (Gallup 2017) There are in fact multiple Republican solutions to the problem, and the SUCCEED Act is definitely the farthest right. Another bill besides the SUCCEED Act, that is Republican sponsored, is the Recognizing America’s Children Act, or RAC Act, which offers middle ground between lenient Democrats’ policy proposals, and Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Senator Thom Tillis should hope to attract farther right conservatives with this bill, and possibly Trump’s approval, given with the SUCCEED Act it takes fifteen years for an undocumented SUCCEED Act participant to gain eligibility to apply for naturalization, whereas competing bills like the RAC Act offers a five year path and the Dream Act a very lenient two to three year path. The bill has garnered support from groups influential to Senator Tillis, with multiple outlets promoting the bill, such as The United States Chamber of Commerce, IBM, The Hispanic Leadership Fund, The National Immigration Forum, the FWD Organization, The Libre Initiative, and Niskanen Center President Jerry Taylor.(SUCCEED ACT, Thom Tillis) Reportedly, the bill has the support of President Trump, someone whose support for Tillis will be critical to his reelection, as we have seen approval ratings for Congressmen plummet when criticized and disapproved of by Trump. According to an article by Ryan Autullo from the Austin American-Statesman, “ Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who co-authored the SUCCEED Act, told reporters he briefed the president on the legislation and that Trump ‘was very supportive of the concepts, saying that’s the right way to go.’”

Section Three: The Chance of Enactment

This bill stands just about as much chance of being enacted as the Dream Act, the Recognizing America’s Children Act, or The BRIDGE Act. Support for the SUCCEED Act comes from all corners, as well as the President. This bill is the far right solution, and given President Trump’s history, and time in office as President, it is safe to say that he would have the most support for this measure, as well as his previously stated support for the measure, saying “that’s the right way to go.” It is a surprise, and not a surprise move from the President. For years, Republicans have talked a tough game on immigration but softened once in office, and now the president is doing the same.

Congressional support is varied, and just like other measures, it seems to have died at the moment. If no further progress is made by late December, it is likely this bill will die in the Senate Judiciary committee into which it was sent to.

According to Govtrack.us, no Democrats have signed onto the bill. Also, given Senator Thom Tillis’ track record, with a 2% success rate of sponsored legislation, it is unlikely this will make it past the committee stage. It’s main competitor, the Dream Act, has been given a prediction of a 21% chance according to its webpage on GovTrack.us The Dream Act has 193 co-sponsors, but due to Congress being largely Republican controlled, this bill does not stand much of a chance as it is a mainly Democrat backed bill. It is only likely to gain support from the Democrat’s side of Congress and a dismal amount of Republicans. (S. 1615: Dream Act of 2017)

The SUCCEED Act is the most likely bill to gain support from Republicans because it is the most conservative bill offered so far in response to Trump’s rescinding of the DACA program. Despite its dismal amount of sponsors, three, because it is the most conservative solution the program, if another bill is not drafted, we could see when it becomes crunch time for a DACA bill to be enacted, Republicans flocking to this bill. When the time comes, we could see this bill become what is known as “pork-barrel legislation.” Trump has come to an understanding with Congressional Democrat leaders in Congress on a DACA deal, that would pair border security measures with legislation for “Dreamers.” (Politico 2017)

Public opinion will play a critical role in the fate of the DACA recipients, and whether or not the SUCCEED Act can even stand a chance. IF the SUCCEED Act were to pass the House and the Senate, most likely with small percentage of passage, it would then end up on President Donald Trump’s desk in the Oval Office. While Trump may have internal support for this piece of legislation and believes in it, there is no doubt, with what his low approval ratings, and the amount of Republicans who reject this kind of legislation, with 24% of Republicans opposing “Allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally the chance to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements over a period of time,” that he will lose his re-election campaign if he signs this bill, or in fact, any piece of legislation allowing the DACA recipients to stay in the United States. (Gallup 2017) Signing it could shake his solid 38% he had throughout the 2016 election, that carried him to victory, what he liked to call “The Silent Majority.” One of the critical issues of the day President Trump ran his campaign on was the immigration crisis, with a hardline stance against illegal immigration, and that is why the “Silent Majority” may not reelect him in the 2020 election. On the other hand, popular opinion has it that President Trump should sign a bill allowing DACA recipients to stay in the United States, although it is largely unlikely it would sway many voters to his side in the coming 2020 presidential election, given his unpopularity ratings currently. A study conducted by Quinnipiac University shows that 76% of respondents support granting legal status and work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, whereas 24% of respondents opposed it.

There are many interest groups involved in this issue as well as many citizens(maybe illegal immigrants as well) speaking out for and against this legislation. Several interest groups have spoken out against this legislation and some have spoken for it. Politico states that” One, Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, argued that provisions barring the young immigrants from sponsoring relatives for green cards, as well as the waiver proposal, were “disturbing.”

“None of these provisions are applied to other groups of admitted immigrants,” Sharry said. “Why, then, does this bill send this group of young Americans to the back of the bus?” (Politico 2017)

It is unclear whether the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for stricter immigration laws, approves or disapproves of this measure, as they tweeted that senators Lankford and Tillis should “instead focus on decades of broken immigration enforcement promises made to the American people.”(Politico 2017)

There seems to be no significant pressure from interest groups that will cause the bill to succeed or fail, but it is important to note the role that interest groups are playing in this legal battle, as some have pressured different states to sue the Trump Administration over its rescinding of DACA. Even the University of California system sued the Trump Administration. The Washington Post reports” The lawsuit pits one of the program’s architects against the administration trying to dismantle it: Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, created DACA while serving as homeland-security secretary in the Obama administration.” So far, suing the Trump Administration has not seen much success by the numerous organizations and government institutions that have done so.

In all of this, it seems both the majoritarian and the pluralist models of democracy are at play. Polls have given great insight into the opinions of millions of Americans, whose protests, while their effects may seem dismal, ring louder than the shot heard round the world. The people have spoken, and so the interest groups have taken the people into their arms, and voiced their grievances.

In the policy making process, there are a wide variety and number of factors to be considered when evaluating the potential pass or fail of a bill introduced to Congress. An important factor to consider is the Congressman/woman’s power and political influence, as well as the relevance of the bill they are proposing. The sad reality for most lawmakers is that their bills will die in committee, even if they have a higher status. If a bill is fortunate enough to make it past a committee, it needs to be reported, and then a vote must be taken in the chamber of Congress it was introduced in. If it manages to pass that vote, it must then proceed to the other chamber of Congress, and, if able to obtain passage, will go to the president’s desk. It is a whole other stage once it reaches the president. There are a whole number of factors influencing the president’s decision once the bill reaches his desk. These factors include approval ratings, public opinion, interest groups, and usually(but not in the case of President Trump because he does not have people financing his campaign but himself) campaign donors. And if the president vetoes the bill, then it must go back to both chambers of Congress and receive a two/thirds vote to pass and become law. The policy making world is a long, tedious, hectic, and busy process. To successfully push through legislation, a Congressman or Congresswoman must know how to play all sides, listen to the people, and act upon their findings. It has become evident that if action is not taken on the SUCCEED Act by late December, it will most likely not, succeed. It can however inspire future legislation that will garner more support from both sides of the spectrum. If it manages to do so then perhaps the “SUCCEED Act” really will, succeed.

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