People hold signs during a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in San Diego, California.
Photographer: Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images
The House passed a bill Thursday to provide a pathway to citizenship for some young undocumented people living in the U.S. — part of Democrats scaled back plans for immigration reform as a surge of migrants at the southern border puts pressure on the Biden administration.
Nine Republicans joined all House Democrats to pass the Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, on a 228-197 vote, which would provide green cards and the prospect of permanent residency to young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. The House will vote later Thursday on another bill to provide legal status for migrant agricultural workers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has adopted a piecemeal approach to immigration, lacking the votes for President Joe Bidens more comprehensive proposal. But even the narrow bills on the House floor Thursday face a tougher sell in the Senate where they would need the support of at least 10 Republicans under the chambers current rules.
There has long been bipartisan support for the Dream Act, first introduced 20 years ago, although Republicans say such protections should be paired with tougher border security. Pelosi on Thursday described the potential beneficiaries of the measure as people who have lived and worked in our country for decades, if not their entire lives.
But immigration has become an increasingly fraught political issue and one that the GOP will try to use against Democrats in next years midterm elections. Republicans on Thursday criticized the timing of the legislation, as illegal border crossings have spiked in recent weeks.
Bringing an amnesty bill to the floor this week in the middle of a total crisis on our southern border not only is tone deaf, but is wrong, said Texas Representative August Pfluger, one of the Republicans who went to the border Monday. This bill will only incentivize more illegal crossings. What a week to put this bill to a vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday mocked the House for acting on legislation that doesnt address the recent increase of people detained at the border, noting that the Biden administration called in the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the surge during a global pandemic.
Are they leaping into action to repair the crisis? McConnell said on the Senate floor. No theyre taking up an amnesty plan that would create a special new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants working in certain industries.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy also said the Democratic bills do nothing to address the current situation at the border.
So far, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats arent providing any solutions, McCarthy said on the House floor before the vote. If anything, they are sending the message that anyone who makes the dangerous journey to cross the border will be rewarded.
QuickTake: Dreamers, DACA and Bidens First Try on Immigration
Shortly after his inauguration, Biden proposed an immigration overhaul plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the U.S., bolster assistance to Central American countries and ease immigration for people fleeing violence. Republicans declared the proposal, which did not include any added resources to secure the border, dead on arrival.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said this week that Bidens comprehensive plan would have a tough time passing in this Congress — and even the Houses piecemeal measures are in doubt in the Senate. He said thats especially the case now that GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Durbins partner on a Senate version of the Dream Act, is demanding it be combined with changes to asylum policy.
Earlier: Republicans Head to Border to Press Biden on Migrant Surge
The Dream and Promise Act would help more than 2 million people now in the nation illegally. It would give conditional green cards and work authorizations — and a path to citizenship — to young Dreamer immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and meet criteria similar to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It would provide similar options for eligible foreign nationals whose home countries are unsafe because of an armed conflict or natural disaster.
There is more bipartisan support for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1603, which would provide temporary status for certain agricultural workers. It would create a pathway for workers to get a green card by paying a $1,000 fine and engaging in additional agricultural work, depending on how long theyve had jobs on U.S. farms. It would also streamline the process of getting a temporary visa for farm work and require electronic employment verification.
Pennsylvania Representative Glenn Thompson, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee, said he was voting for the bill, but he hopes Senate would improve it to better resolve the shortage of legal workers for the nations ranchers, farms and dairies.
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