Legislators in the House of Representatives on Thursday passed two bills paving the way for citizenship or legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants, including those illegally brought into the country as children and agricultural workers.
The law was passed largely partisan, with Democrats and Republicans.
The bills are tighter than the comprehensive immigration package launched in February with the assistance of President Joe Biden. Even so, they face a difficult path to the Senate, where 10 Republicans would have to vote with each Democrat to approve them.
A non-partisan immigration deal – a key priority for the Biden government – has been hampered by recent events. Republicans have noted an increase in unaccompanied minors arrested on the US-Mexico border to press for stricter immigration enforcement.
About 4,500 children are in the care of Customs and Border Protection, most of whom are in a facility in Donna, Texas, an administrative officer said Thursday. Under Biden, more unaccompanied children are allowed to enter the United States than under Trump, whose administration was quick to evict minors seeking entry into the country.
In a television interview on ABC Tuesday, Biden said, “I can be very clear, don’t come,” adding that “we’re in the process of settling in, don’t leave your town or town.” “
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The administration has asked the Federal Agency for Disaster Control to protect the minors and move them to more humane facilities while refusing to label the situation a “crisis” or “emergency”. During a call to reporters on Wednesday, an unnamed administration official said the issue was older than the Biden administration and that legislation was needed to address it.
“This is quite a government effort. We are currently managing the situation, but it will take time for the damage caused to be repaired,” the official said. “We also need to work with Congress to pass an immigration law that will give us more sensible laws to implement and enforce.”
The two laws passed on Thursday are the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
The first would apply largely to those immigrants known as dreamers who are protected under former President Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action for Child Arrivals 2012” program. About 2.5 million people who came to the United States as children are entitled to a route to citizenship under the law, according to the authors.
The bill was passed between 228 and 197, and nine Republicans joined the Democrats in favor of the legislation.
The second bill would provide farm workers who are illegally in the country with a path to legal status estimated at at least half of the 2.4 million workers in the sector. Some farm workers could get a green card if they pay a fine and stay in the industry for another four to eight years, depending on how long they have already worked on the farm.
It happened 247-174, with 30 Republicans for and one Democrat against.
The bills aren’t as extensive as Biden’s immigration plan, the US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would have opened up avenues to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Democratic and Republican leaders have said in recent days that such a sweeping proposal has virtually no chance of garnering bipartisan support.
“I see no way of doing that,” Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., The Majority Whip, told CNN. “I want it. I think we’ll be much more likely to deal with discrete elements.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., a Senate immigration leader, said Monday, “It will be really difficult to put together a bipartisan bill on anything that has a legalization component until you stop the flow.”
The White House officially backed both bills early Thursday in statements calling on lawmakers to move forward with the citizenship bill.