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Democrats, Republicans Promote Their Own DACA Fixes


When the Trump administration announced its decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, it kicked the matter over to Congress. The White House gave lawmakers six months to find a legislative fix to protect the roughly 800,000 DREAMers, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. And as NPR's Geoff Bennett reports, Democrats and Republicans this past week each promoted their own solution.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Republicans who might have been leery of supporting the bipartisan DREAM Act got a more conservative-friendly option in the form of a new bill dubbed The Succeed Act. As acronyms go, it's a long one. Succeed Act stands for the Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers Employment, Education and Defending our nation. As the name suggests, the new GOP proposal requires that qualified applicants be gainfully employed, pursue or complete a high school or college education or serve in the U.S. military.


THOM TILLIS: This bill, I believe, is a fair and orderly method for providing a permanent solution for the DACA children.

BENNETT: That's North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis. He introduced the legislation with his Republican co-author Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma. The Succeed Act features many of the same requirements and provisions of the DREAM Act but imposes more restrictions, such as a longer path to citizenship for DREAMers. They could only apply for citizenship after 15 years of legal status, including at least five years as a green card holder. So a DREAMer who is 25 years old now wouldn't have full rights until age 40. Senator Lankford told reporters he talked with President Trump about the legislation during a recent phone call.


JAMES LANKFORD: The president was fully engaged with that and was very supportive of the concept, saying that's the right way to go.

BENNETT: This week, Democrats in the House launched a long-shot bid to use a procedural move to force a floor vote on the DREAM Act. Here's House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.


STENY HOYER: There's already bipartisan support to pass the DREAM Act. We know that. Both the speaker and the majority leader have spoken sympathetically to the DREAMers. And in fact, Speaker Ryan urged the president not to take the action he took.

BENNETT: The DREAM Act would allow qualified young undocumented immigrants the chance to earn legal permanent residence and eventually American citizenship so long as they meet certain requirements and pass a background check. Different versions of the DREAM Act have been around for 16 years, but each has failed to pass. This time, top Democrats believe they have a partner in President Trump after having reached an agreement in principle to work with Trump on a deal that would pair the DREAM Act with beefed-up border security measures, an agreement which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated Thursday.


NANCY PELOSI: In our meeting with the president, he made a commitment to support the DREAM Act. He had said in previous meetings with us that he would sign that bill if it came to his desk.

BENNETT: For DREAMers who've been watching all of this with a mix of fear and anxiety, this week brings the first deadline linked to the phase-out of the DACA policy. DREAMers whose protected status expires before March 5 have until Thursday to apply for a two-year renewal of their protections. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZOE KEATING SONG, "SUN WILL SET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Bennett is a White House reporter for NPR. He previously covered Capitol Hill and national politics for NY1 News in New York City and more than a dozen other Time Warner-owned cable news stations across the country. Prior to that role, he was an editor with NPR's Weekend Edition. Geoff regularly guest hosts C-SPAN's Washington Journal — a live, three-hour news and public affairs program. He began his journalism career at ABC News in New York after graduating from Morehouse College.