US House approves immigration bills with paths to citizenship
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US House approves immigration bills with paths to citizenship

The US House of Representatives passed two separate bills Thursday aimed at immigration reform, marking the first time Congress has voted to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The first bill, HR 6, the American Dream and Promise Act (Dream Act), seeks to establish a permanent legal path for over two million undocumented immigrants, including US-raised, undocumented immigrant youth, known as “Dreamers.” The bill also includes individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In a near party-line vote, the bill passed 228-197. Only nine Republicans voted with Democrats in support.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and 175 co-sponsors reintroduced the bill on March 3. As a congressional member “representing the district with the highest percentage of Dreamers,” Roybal-Allard served as a co-author of the original 2001 Dream Act.

“Immigrants greatly contribute to our economy, our community, and our culture. Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough,” said Roybal-Allard, speaking to the bill’s reintroduction. “We must reimagine the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and fair. The time has come for the values of our nation to be reflected in our immigration policies.”

Just hours after passing the first bill, the House voted to pass HR 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would establish a system for farmers and agricultural workers to earn temporary status with eventual options to become permanent US residents. The bill would also update the existing H-24 temporary agricultural worker visa program. In a more bipartisan vote, 30 Republicans (mostly from agricultural-dependent districts) voted in support.

The White House issued statements in support of the House’s passage of both bills, underscoring the “much-needed economic security and stability to millions of people who currently face perpetual uncertainty and vulnerability as a result of their immigration status” and the importance of America’s undocumented farmers.

Both bills come as the Biden administration faces increased scrutiny over its handling of immigration amid a recent surge in border crossings, including many children. A new report from NPR alleges that “hundreds of migrant children and teens traveling without their parents have been held in jail-like detention centers at the border for 10 days, and longer,” in violation of US law limiting time spent by minors in detention centers to 72 hours.