Republican senators offer conservative alternative to DREAM Act

Republican senators on Monday introduced what they call the “conservative alternative” to the DREAM Act that would still protect hundreds of thousands of young people brought illegally into the United States.

The senators announced the plan as Congress negotiates over a new DREAM Act, meant to enshrine protections for young illegal immigrants under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan that President Trump has ended.

The alternative plan, called the SUCCEED Act, is being touted by GOP Sens. Thom Tillis, of North Carolina; James Lankford, of Oklahoma; and Orrin Hatch, of Utah.

“I want to stay focused on … providing a solution for these children,” Tillis said in introducing the bill Monday on Capitol Hill. “I want to make it clear that I’m genuinely interested in talking to anybody interested in a solution.”

Tillis also said he’s open to a bipartisan effort, despite the bill being considered a conservative-leaning plan.

The senators call the bill a compassionate, merit-based solution to help those protected by the Obama-era DACA program.

Among the requirements for program beneficiaries is that they either maintain a job, serve in the military or earn a post-secondary or vocational degree to keep their legal status as adults.

“The SUCCEED Act isn’t a free pass,” the lawmakers said in a statement before officially announcing the bill.

They also say the bill will include extensive background checks that look for gang activity, claiming the bill will deter future illegal immigration.

Beyond those with criminal convictions, those with “significant misdemeanors” could also be declared ineligible. The lawmakers suggested the bill should be paired with “significant” border security.

A Tillis spokesman said the bill also provides an eventual pathway to citizenship for those who qualify -- which also could be part of a DREAM Act deal pursued by President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The spokesman said that individuals under the SUCCEED Act would -- after 15 years of legal status, including at least five years as a green card holder -- qualify for naturalization and could apply for citizenship.