Democrats vowed the votes would be the first step toward enacting President Biden’s immigration agenda. But Republicans galvanized by border politics promised to stop even the most popular measures.
The stalemate on immigration policy is nothing new for Congress. Attempts at comprehensive reform have failed under the last three presidents, even in moments of greater political alignment on the issue between Democrats and Republicans.
It was Congresss inaction that prompted President Barack Obama in 2012 to set up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to provide temporary, renewable work permits and protection from deportation to Dreamers. Roughly 700,000 people signed up for the program before Mr. Trump tried unsuccessfully to end it.
The American Dream and Promise Act would provide a path to citizenship for all DACA recipients and other Dreamers who have not enrolled, promising permanent legal status in exchange for higher education, work or military service. The bill would also include hundreds of thousands of people with Temporary Protected Status, granted to immigrants from countries devastated by natural disaster or violence, and those who hold a similar status known as Deferred Enforced Departure, often extended in cases where immigrants would face persecution or danger if they were returned to their home country.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act deals with groups seldom seen or noticed by much of the public: the scores of migrant agricultural workers who grow and harvest much of the countrys food supply.
Unlike the Dreamers bill, it is the product of lengthy bipartisan negotiations and haggling with farmworkers and their employers. The resulting compromise would create a program for farmworkers, their spouses and their children to gain legal status if they continue to work in agriculture and pay a $1,000 fine; alter the temporary agricultural worker visa program to stabilize wage fluctuation and include the dairy industry; and institute a mandatory, national E-Verify program for employers to confirm individuals are qualified to work.
Proponents of the bill say the changes will help bring hundreds of thousands of farmworkers out of the shadows, preserve the flow of migrant workers who are willing to do hard labor that Americans increasingly will not and promote stability in the nations food supply that has become more urgent during the pandemic.
The U.S. is a country of law and order. We must continue working to reform our broken immigration laws and enhance our border security, said Representative Dan Newhouse, Republican of Washington and one of the bills lead authors. That is exactly what this legislation will do.