Posted on March 19, 2021

House Passes Bills Offering Dreamers Path to Citizenship

Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2021

The House passed two bills providing pathways to citizenship for certain categories of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, in a show of bipartisan support for narrow measures that still risk getting tied up in a long-running impasse over how to repair the immigration system.

By 228-197, the House voted to create a path to citizenship for young immigrants known as Dreamers who came to the U.S. before the age of 19 and have lived in the country illegally, as well as hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. under a humanitarian program that provides temporary protection to people suffering from extraordinary conditions like war or natural disasters.

President Biden hailed the bill’s passage in the House, calling it “a critical first step in reforming our immigration system.”

A second bill, passed by a vote of 247-174 with 30 Republicans in favor and a single Democrat against, sets out a path to citizenship for farmworkers in the country illegally and their family members. Both bills have been expected to pass the Democratic-led House with support from some Republicans sympathetic to the people affected, seeing them as being in the country through no fault of their own or as essential members of the workforce.

The fate of both bills in the evenly divided Democratic-led Senate is uncertain.

{snip} Agriculture Department data show that nearly 50% of hired crop farmworkers in the U.S. lack legal status, and Democrats say many young immigrants without legal authorization are also working on the front lines of the pandemic.


But many Republicans said pushing legalization measures now, just as a migrant surge at the southern border is straining U.S. resources, would give a green light to immigrants to come to the U.S. illegally.

“This bill provides amnesty to millions of those who are illegally in this country,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz.) “The promise of amnesty is a magnet.”


The new measures are part of what aides to President Biden have described as a “multiple trains leaving the station” approach, in which bills tailored to individual groups would be put on a legislative track along with a comprehensive immigration bill he has proposed. But even the narrower measures have begun to run into political headwinds as authorities grapple with a surge in migrants at the southern border.


Mr. Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill would provide a path to citizenship for those immigrants, $4 billion in aid to help ease conditions in Central America that lead many to flee and make several other changes to the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. That bill lacks many of the border-security elements Republicans have said they would need to support it. {snip}


The U.S. is on pace to see the largest number of migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally in two decades, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday. {snip}