Legislation to Create a Pathway to Legalization Passes House and Goes to Senate
On March 18, 2021, the House passed two bills designed to create paths to legalization for certain groups of immigrants. Both the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act have been sent to the Senate.
American Dream and Promise Act
Legislation that will create a route for legalization for Dreamers (residents who were brought to the United States as children) has passed the House. The legislation received bipartisan support, although a closer battle can be expected in the Senate. The bill passed 228-197, with nine Republicans joining the Democrats.
The bill’s sponsor said that this legislation will bring relief to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants. The legislation covers all the undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S at the age of 18 years or younger. This legislation also includes immigrants who have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It would also provide a path to legal status for individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as of 2017 and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which are the two forms of temporary protection for immigrants from countries that face a crisis.
The bill “eliminates the ambiguity in their lives and recognizes the talents and indispensable contributions Dreamers make to our country,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a primary sponsor, said on the House floor. “Some are married or educated, they speak the language, they’re working, they pay the taxes,” said Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan. “When you get to know these people, and I do, it breaks your heart.”
Pathway to Legalization
The Biden administration expressed its support for this legislation in a statement before the vote on March 18. “Americans recognize that our Nation is enriched by the contributions of immigrants. [The bill] is a critical milestone toward much-needed relief for the millions of undocumented individuals who call the United States home,” the statement said.
Farm Workforce Modernization Act
The House also passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a 247-174 vote. Thirty Republicans voted for the bill, while one Democrat voted against it.
The legislation will provide a temporary status, Certified Agricultural Workers, for those who were agricultural workers for at least 180 days during the past two years. Spouses and children of the workers can also apply under the Act. Undocumented farmworkers will have to pay a fine and engage in additional agricultural work depending on their length of period they have performed agricultural labor in the United States.
Those with ten years of previous agricultural experience will be eligible to apply for a green card after working four more years. Those with less than ten years of experience will have to work eight more years to apply.
The legislation also streamlines the process to get an H-2A visa, which is a work visa for foreign citizens to work temporarily in the United States. This bill is seen as a welcome measure for many in the agricultural sector, as there has always been a dearth of farmworkers in the United States. Undocumented farmworkers are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, as they have limited access to medical facilities and are often underpaid due to their immigration status.