When América Yareli Hernández – and other Dreamers like her – took a look at legislation designed to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, she didn’t like what she saw.
“The biggest problem with the new proposal is that we would have to sign a voluntary exit or basically our voluntary deportation for in case we did not qualify or something happened during the time we are under the program,” said Hernández, who has been under the protection of DACA since October 2012.
Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced the Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education and Defending our Nation (SUCCEED) Act last week.
The bill would allow young undocumented immigrants – often referred to as Dreamers – who were brought to the U.S. as children and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years to earn temporary legal status if they pursue higher education, enlist in the military or are gainfully employed, and meet other requirements.
There are about 800,000 Dreamers in the United States, and about 61,000 are in the region between San Joaquín County and Tulare County.
DACA will be phased out over the next 2½ years, unless Congress acts on a DACA renewal or replacement.
No renewal applications would be allowed after Oct. 5, the last day people can apply to renew their DACA status. However, the only renewals that would be accepted are for those whose DACA status would expires anytime between now and March 5.
The SUCCEED Act would create a 15-year process that would allow young undocumented immigrants to earn the ability to be protected from deportation, work legally in the U.S., travel outside the country, and become a lawful permanent resident.
Under the bill, Dreamers are not eligible to become lawful permanent residents until after they complete 10 years as conditional permanent residents, compared to five years in the RAC Act and two or three years in the Dream Act.
Also under the bill, recipients with conditional or lawful permanent resident status would not be eligible to sponsor family members, including spouses and children, to obtain legal status in the U.S.
Mi Familia Vota does not support the legislation.
Neither does America’s Voice.
Neither does Tomás Pérez, national chair of the Democratic Party.
Xavier Vázquez Báez, director of immigration services for the non-profit Education and Leadership Foundation in Fresno, labels the proposal “a little strict and harsh.”
Vázquez Báez, a DACA recipient, said some of the provisions of the SUCEED Act are “not immigrant friendly.”
Vázquez Báez has made no secret about how DACA has helped him since 2013 when he applied and was accepted.
“You can’t petition your families members until you are citizen,” Vázquez Báez said, adding that there are still many things unclear such as what if you already had DACA for a couple of years, or if you already have a college degree.
The foundation was launched in 2012 and has served about 12,000 young adults, documented and undocumented, with DACA applications, scholarships, citizenship applications or petitioning family members for visas.
And Dreamers must agree to relinquish nearly all forms of immigration benefits and relief if, at any time during the 10 years they have conditional permanent status, they fail to continue to meet the bill’s requirements. Also, they are subject to expedited removal without an immigration court hearing if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finds they committed a crime prohibited under conditional permanent residency.
“By signing that document, they can use it against us whenever they want and without the ability to fight our case and that does not make it fair,” Hernández said.
Last month, community members and many organizations that advocate for immigrant rights gathered in front of the Robert E. Coyle Federal Building on Sept. 5 in downtown Fresno to express their disenchantment and opposition to the decision by the White House to end the DACA program which has protected 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation across the United States.
Since the announcement was made last month about DACA program being rescinded, Vázquez Báez said the Foundation has held approximately 11 workshops thought out the Central Valley – Mendota, Delano, Visalia, Madera, Fresno, Modesto y Los Baños – helping those DACA recipients who qualify for renewal before the Oct. 5 deadline.
He said they also assisted the applicants with the $495 fee.
The SUCCEED Act also limits the power of the DHS secretary to parole categories or groups of individuals into the U.S.
Parole allows individuals applying for admission to the U.S. to be admitted temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or if their presence provides a significant public benefit. The bill also prohibits the use of advance parole for the purpose of qualifying for the adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.
“The second problem of this proposal is that it would not be a clean proposal,” Hernández said. “They want to attach it to other proposals and conditions that would harm our families or other vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children and funds to pay for the wall. That is not something we can accept.”
“Republicans are using DACA to negotiate and we also have the right to put our own terms, or they give us a clean proposal to really help us without hurting our families or giving us nothing and we continue the fight,” Hernández said.