Undocumented Immigrants: House Passes Bills To Legalize Dreamers, Immigrant Farm Workers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) participates in a news conference on immigration at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The House on Thursday passed a pair of immigration bills that would keep millions of illegal immigrants from being deported and offer them a pathway to remain in the U.S. permanently.

The Dream and Promise Act, which would help more than 3 million “Dreamers” and others gain legal status and a chance for citizenship, passed in a 228-197 vote. Nine Republicans joined with Democrats to back the bill, an increase from the seven GOP members who joined Democrats when the issue was first considered in 2019.

Democrats have said the bill, which grants Dreamers conditional permanent resident status for ten years and cancels removal proceedings if they can pass a background check, pay fees and graduate from high school, is morally necessary for young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children and in some cases do not even remember life in their birth country.

The young immigrants would become eligible for full green card status if they meet an additional set of criteria, including a college degree, military service or three years of employment.

The bill also protects immigrants with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure from deportation and offers them an opportunity for lawful permanent resident status.

Republicans have argued the bill would serve as an incentive for migrants to attempt to enter the country amid an already-worsening crisis at the southern border.

“When you have a crisis at the border, the last thing you should do is make it worse,” GOP Whip Steve Scalie (R., La.) said. “That’s what this bill does.”

However, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act received more bipartisan support, passing in a 247-to-174 vote with the support of 30 Republicans and all but one Democrat. The bill would help an additional 1 million immigrant agriculture workers, their spouses, and minor children remain in the country legally.

Republicans have supported the bill as a way to stabilize the farming workforce and ultimately implement a mandatory nationwide E-verify system for all agricultural employment. 

Representative Mike Simpson (R., Idaho), who supported the measure, said it is “not about what is happening on the border.”

“This bill is not amnesty,” he said. “It does not grant anybody amnesty. It allows individuals to get right with the law and to become legal [workers] in the United States. It’s about providing a stable legal workforce for the people who put food on our table.”

Both bills will move to the Senate where they would need 60 votes to move forward.

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