The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed bills providing a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” who are immigrants living illegally in the United States after entering as children, as well as for a large number of illegal immigrant farmworkers. The two measures now go to the Senate.
By a vote of 228-197, the Democratic-controlled House passed the Dreamers bill with only nine Republicans supporting it. The legislation would allow Dreamers to live, work, serve in the military, and continue their educations without the threat of deportation and to eventually win U.S. citizenship if they meet a set of requirements. There are around 1.8 million Dreamers in the U.S., and many have spent most of their lives in the States and have been educated in U.S. schools.
The House then approved the farmworker bill, 247-174, to shield about 1 million undocumented immigrant laborers from deportation.
Both measures are among several attempts by Democrats to reverse former President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies. Many Republicans attacked the Dreamer legislation, saying the southwest border needed to be secured before taking any new steps on immigration reforms.
During Thursday’s debate over the Dreamer bill, Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal noted she came from India to the United States alone at the age of 16, saying, “Let’s stop the hypocrisy of criminalizing immigrants.” But Republican Representative Chip Roy said Democrats were doing “nothing to address cartels who have ownership of our border right now” and are pushing legislation that would prove to be “a magnet for traffic of more children.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell panned the House efforts on Thursday, saying they would exacerbate problems at the border, further dimming prospects in that chamber, where a supermajority of at least 60 of 100 members are needed for most legislation to advance.
The White House backed both bills and urged lawmakers to adopt broader reforms in Biden’s sweeping immigration bill introduced last month, saying this would secure the border and “address the root causes of instability and unsafe conditions causing migration from Central America.” This wide-ranging plan would provide a path to U.S. citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Senator Dick Durbin said this week that goal does not have enough support in the House or Senate.
Biden took to Twitter to voice his response.
We can't keep waiting. I urge Congress to come together to find long term solutions to our entire immigration system so we can create a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system, tackle the root causes of migration and legalize the undocumented population in the United States.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 18, 2021
Copyright 2021 Thomson/Reuters