As the immigration debate ramps up, here are the leading bills already pending in Congress

Gloria Mendoza, 26, gathered with protesters at Trump Tower in New York on Sept. 5.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

When President Trump withdrew deportation protection for people who illegally came to the United States as children, he tasked Congress with crafting an immigration plan to overhaul the system.

A blueprint deal he reached with Democrats emphasized protecting the so-called Dreamers while beefing up border security to prevent others from entering the country illegally. Over the weekend, the White House unveiled much tougher terms, including funding for a border wall and new limits on legal immigration.

Because of the deep divides over immigration, passage of reform will be difficult.

But since the issue has been kicking around Congress for years, there are already several bills that could provide a foundation or pieces for an immigration package.


Here’s a look at some:

The Dream Act

  • The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act
  • Introduced in July by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the Senate and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in the House
  • Has nine cosponsors in the Senate (three Republicans and six Democrats) and 200, mostly Democrat, cosponsors in the House

The Democratic Party has thrown its support behind the Dream Act, a longstanding bill that would offer Dreamers a path to citizenship if they continue to participate in the higher education system, the military or the workforce. Democratic leaders have offered pairing the Dream Act with border security measures to reach a compromise with Trump and Republicans.

The act would grant conditional permanent resident status to people who were younger than 18 when they came to the United States, have been in the country for at least four years, have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses and have fulfilled certain education requirements. This status would be valid for eight years.

They could eventually apply for lawful permanent resident status — and citizenship — if they had received a degree from a college or university or had completed two years of a program, had served in the uniformed services for two years or had been employed for a total of three years.

The act also includes provisions that would prohibit the government from using information from DACA applications for immigration enforcement and encourages states to offer higher education benefits to students in the country illegally.

The RAC Act

  • Recognizing America’s Children Act
  • Introduced in March by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) in the House
  • Has 34, mostly Republican, cosponsors

The RAC Act also outlines a path to citizenship for immigrants but expects a longer time commitment in higher education, the military or the workforce.

The program would be available to people who came to the United States before they were 16 and have been here since 2012. If they are over 18, they could apply for conditional permanent resident status for five years if they had the equivalent of a high school diploma or certificate and were admitted to a college or university or were authorized to work.


They could then extend that status for another five years if they had graduated, spent three years in the military or been employed for at least four years. Once they are granted an extension, they could apply for lawful permanent resident status and then citizenship.

The Succeed Act

  • The Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers Employment Education and Defending our Nation Act
  • Introduced in September by Sen.Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in the Senate
  • Has two Republican cosponsors

The Succeed Act is the Republican Senate iteration of a 15-year path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Applicants must sign a waiver that would forfeit any future immigration benefits if they violate the terms of their status, which critics worry will leave immigrants defenseless but proponents say will cut down on future illegal immigration.

Immigrants under 31 years old at the time DACA was implemented could apply for conditional resident status if they arrived in the country before they were 16 and before June 2012. To extend this status for another five years, they must have graduated or completed eight semesters at an institute of higher education, served in the military for three years or been employed for four years.

The bill also prevents parents of undocumented children from receiving benefits and children from petitioning for their parents’ citizenship.

The Bridge Act

  • The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act
  • Introduced in Jan. 2017 by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in Senate and by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in House
  • Has nine cosponsors in the Senate (three Republicans and six Democrats) and 31 bipartisan cosponsors in the House

The Bridge Act would offer people eligible for DACA relief from deportation as well as employment authorization for three years, beginning when the bill is enacted.


The program would protect current DACA recipients and new applicants who meet similar education or work requirements and are at least 15 years old, came to the United States before they were 16 and have been here for at least 10 years.

The Raise Act

  • The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act
  • Introduced in Feb. by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in Senate and in Sept. by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) in House
  • Has one Republican cosponsor in the Senate and 20 in the House

The Raise Act is designed to lower overall immigration rates, including legal immigration. Proponents say that would boost the economy by being more selective with immigration, though others refute that claim.

The act would create a points-based system that evaluates potential immigrants on their education level, English language ability, high-paying job offers, age and record of achievement.

It would also limit protections for immigrants’ extended family members, cap the number of refugees offered permanent residency at 50,000 per year and eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, which offers 50,000 visas annually to countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

The act, which Trump already said he would support, would decrease overall immigration by 50% in 10 years, according to a fact sheet from the sponsoring lawmakers.

The Border Security for America Act

  • Introduced in July 2017 by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in the House
  • Has 70 Republican cosponsors

The Border Security for America Act would increase funds, resources and people along the southern border.


The act would allocate $10 billion for infrastructure and technology along the border, $5 billion to improve and modernize trading ports and a total of $145 million to reimburse state and local law enforcement and members of the National Guard who work along the southern border.

It would also add 5,000 border patrol agents and 5,000 customs and border-protection officers, and encourage immigration officials to more closely follow people who overstay their visas.

Democratic leaders, who have said they will not support a bill that funds a border wall, offered to pair the Dream Act with an earlier version of a border security bill, also introduced by McCaul. The 2013 bill, which passed unanimously in the House, would encourage lawmakers to study the impact of immigration enforcement and border security before allocating resources.

Other immigration-related measures

The Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act, which has passed the House, would ease polygraph hiring requirements for Customs and Border Protection employees to encourage flexibility and efficiency in hiring.

The Davis-Oliver Act would give state and local officials more authority to enforce immigration laws and deny federal assistance to states that do not comply with federal policy.

The Accountability through Electronic Verification Act would require employers to use an electronic system that determines whether an employee is eligible to work in the country.


The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would limit the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 50,000 per year.

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