Democrats seem to be on track to secure the House’s first votes on immigration this year, but bringing legislation on the controversial topic all the way to President Joe Biden will be challenging.
The House was scheduled to vote on a bill on Thursday that would give full legal status and citizenship to over 2 million young Dreamer immigrants and others. A second bill will do the same for about 1 million farm workers who are undocumented. Both seemed to have a fair chance of passing.
However, due to partisan divides and strong Republican opposition, getting immigration legislation through the Senate would be difficult, particularly if Biden’s goal of helping all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States become citizens is to be realized. The partisan war shows no signs of abating before next year’s polls, when Republicans expect to retake control of the House and Senate.
The law is being written at a time when the number of migrants attempting to cross the border has been steadily increasing since April and has now reached its highest level since March 2019. According to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the number is on track to hit a 20-year high.
The US Chamber of Commerce is one of many organizations that support the bills. Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, is among those opposed to the bill.
GOP lawmakers have been fixated on the increasing number of refugees, including children, attempting to reach the United States from Mexico, and have blamed Biden administration policies for it. Despite the fact that neither bill will impact those attempting to cross the border, top Republicans are encouraging members of Congress to vote no on both.
The bill will only worsen the influx of illegal immigrants to the United States by failing to provide compliance provisions to deal with the tide of illegal immigration or provisions to resolve the humanitarian crisis at the border, according to an email sent to House GOP colleagues by No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Democrats showed no signs of backing down from either bill, which passed the House in identical forms in 2019. That year, seven Republicans voted for the Dreamers bill and 34 voted for the farm workers bill, but GOP support is predicted to plunge this time as the party rallies around demands for tighter border controls.
“It seems that they are attempting to use the border situation against Democrats in 2022 to claim that we are poor on border security,” said Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district in south Texas borders the border.
Both of the 2019 bills failed in the Republican-controlled Senate and would never have gotten Donald Trump’s signature, who spent his four years in office restricting legal and illegal immigration.
Cuellar believes Biden needs to send a “clear message about the border, ‘Hey, you can’t come here illegally,’” to fight GOP messaging. Republicans claim that the administration’s policies and rhetoric have enticed migrants to enter the country.
“I can say very clearly: Don’t come over,” Biden said in an ABC News interview that aired Wednesday. He has reversed Trump’s policy of separating young children from their migrant families and has permitted arrested minors to remain in the United States until officials determine if they can legally stay, but he has turned away the majority of single adults and families.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said this week that he sees no way to pass an immigration overhaul this year, citing GOP demands for tough border security provisions. To pass immigration legislation in the 50-50 house, Democrats will almost certainly require at least ten Republican votes.
Many immigrants under the age of 18 who were brought into the United States illegally before this year will be granted conditional legal status for ten years under the Dreamer bill. They’d need to have completed high school or have comparable educational qualifications, be free of significant criminal records, and meet other requirements.
They will need to pursue a higher education degree, serve in the military, or work for at least three years in order to obtain legal permanent residency, also known as a green card. After five years, they, like anyone else with a green card, might apply for citizenship.
The bill will also issue green cards to an estimated 400,000 immigrants with temporary protected status, which allows citizens fleeing unrest or natural disasters in a dozen countries to temporarily live in the United States.
The other bill would award certified agriculture worker status to undocumented farm workers who have worked for at least two years, as well as their spouses and children. This will allow them to stay in the United States for 5 1/2-year cycles that could be renewed.
They’d have to pay a $1,000 fine and serve for an extra eight years to get green cards, based on how long they’ve already worked on farms.
The bill would also set a wage limit, make it easier for employers to receive H-2A visas, which allow immigrants to work legally on farms, and phase in a mandatory system for electronically checking that agriculture workers are in the country legally.
According to Labor Department statistics from 2016, almost half of the country’s 2.4 million farm workers were in the country illegally.