COLUMN: The DACA alternatives help no one

Congress is taking its sweet time mulling over the age-old immigration meritocracy debate as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries await their future in the United States. 

Nonpermanent residents across the country, many of whom are college students, contemplate their fate while the GOP prioritizes building a border wall with Mexico before the success of our nation’s youth.

For some Republican leaders, not even a wall, the wettest of "Make America Great Again" dreams, is enough to make these politicians create a path to citizenship for economy-contributing young adults.

“There would have to be a whole lot more than a wall if I were to give amnesty to a whole lot of illegal aliens who are going to take jobs from American citizens,” Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, told Vox.com.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear where Democratic leadership stands on striking a deal with President Donald Trump. 

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, stepped out of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala last month for an emergency meeting on Trump’s DACA decision, there seemed to be bipartisan progress. 

However, this appeared to be only a decorum measure, as Trump’s White House later seemed indifferent to carrying out any concrete action. Plus, since the Democratic leadership announced a possible deal, Trump tweeted a series of statements that made everything all the more confusing.

Last week, while Democrats tried to build a bipartisan coalition to push forward the original Dream Act, a new bill became popular among moderately conservative Republicans. 

The SUCCEED Act, or the “Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education and Defending our nation” Act, emerged as an alternative for Republicans too conservative to carry out the regulations of DACA, but not conservative enough to believe that a 15-year path to citizenship is “cutting the immigration line.”

Proposed by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the SUCCEED Act is a stricter path to legalization that takes into account the innocence of undocumented youth under the law. 

The act requires eligible applicants be gainfully employed and be either currently completing or have already completed a high school or a higher education degree. Applicants can also be serving in the U.S. military.

An applicant could apply for citizenship only after accumulating 15 years of legal status, with at least five of those years as a green card holder. Most notably, the bill aims to cut “chain migration,” or the phenomenon in which family members of permanent residents are prioritized for immigration status.

This bill, along with the more conservative BRIDGE Act and the less conservative Recognizing America’s Children Act, follow the standard immigration policy procedure of letting down undocumented youth.

These restrictions are too stringent for any young immigrant to succeed. A DACA solution should prioritize undocumented youth by accounting for the reality of the situation of these people. 

It’s time for U.S. immigration policy to stop centering around fantasies of meritocracy and start helping real people.


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