House passes immigration bill with citizenship pathway for "Dreamers"
Washington DC – The US House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act on Thursday, the first immigration bill to receive a vote since President Joe Biden assumed office.
The legislation, which would give 2.5 million undocumented immigrants the chance to apply for citizenship, passed on a 228-197 vote in the Democrat-controlled House.
The proposal creates a pathway to legal status for so-called "Dreamers," immigrants who came to the US at a young age with their parents. It also includes protections and a potential route to citizenship for temporary protected status recipients, which includes those from countries like Haiti and Venezuela.
In 2019, the House approved a similar version of the bill, but it died in what was then a Republican-run Senate under the Trump administration, which favored policies constricting legal and illegal immigration.
The House was also voting on a second immigration bill Thursday, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill would allow more than 1 million undocumented farmworkers to apply for legal status if they have worked at least 180 days in agriculture over two years.
Jeff Bezos chimes in
The American Dream and Promise Act and Farm Workforce Modernization Act are considered piecemeal immigration bills that are separate from Biden’s comprehensive bill that proposes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Experts say Biden’s bill is not expected to generate enough Republican votes in the US Senate to pass, but the smaller immigration bills for "Dreamers" and farmworkers have a better chance of getting at least 10 GOP votes in the Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos chimed in on Instagram as legislators prepared to cast their votes. He urged lawmakers to pass the bills. Bezos noted that his father came to the US from Cuba alone at the age of 16 and succeeded because of "grit, determination, and the support and kindness" of Americans.
"I’m hopeful that policymakers will come together to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and prioritize more commonsense immigration reforms like reducing the green card backlog," Bezos wrote. "Families across America deserve this."
The bills face backlash from Republican lawmakers
But some lawmakers like Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., don't think the bills are the way to go.
On Wednesday, Salazar led a group of nine GOP lawmakers in rolling out a rebuttal to Democrats’ immigration plan, which they called "unworkable" amid a growing crisis at the southern border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently said attempted border crossings are on pace to reach their highest levels in 20 years.
The Republican proposal includes increasing funding for enhanced border security; expanding visas for agricultural workers; developing a 10-year path to a renewable legal status for undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record; protecting "Dreamers"; and implementing mandatory E-Verify, a federal program that checks the immigration status of workers.
"My Democrat colleagues have presented an immigration reform law that they know, they know will never become law in the way that it has been written," Salazar said.
"As Hispanics, we don’t want any more false promises, false hopes," she added. "We want for those 11 million undocumented who are here in the country to be treated with dignity. But this will not happen, it will not happen, if we don’t stop the madness at the border with real, permanent solutions, not with executive orders."
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire