US Immigration: House Passes Immigration Bill Giving Dreamers a Path to Citizenship

US Immigration: House Passes Immigration Bill Giving Dreamers a Path to Citizenship

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would give undocumented immigrants, including “Dreamers”, a pathway to citizenship. The House on 18 March voted 228 to 197, to set up a legal pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Dreamers are people who came to the US as undocumented minors and who received temporary protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The bill, called the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, would also grant green cards for many immigrants who have fled war or natural disasters and are residing in the US with a temporary protected status. 

In all, the bill could make 4.4 million people eligible for permanent residence in the US, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Currently, no process to citizenship for “Dreamers” exists. 

Hurdle to Pass

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 was passed with bipartisan support but it will likely face an uphill battle in the US Senate.

It’s unclear whether there is enough support to pass the legislation in the evenly divided US Senate. To pass the bill in the split chamber, all Democrats and at least 10 Republicans would need to vote for the legislation to avoid a filibuster. 

The House Representatives also voted 247-174 on a second bill, which would grant legal status for undocumented farmworkers. Both measures passed in 2019, as well, with some Republican support – but the measures are likely to join a growing list of legislation that will hit a wall in the evenly divided Senate, where Republicans have vowed to block proposals with the filibuster.

The measures are among several attempts by Democrats to reverse Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies. 

The Bill

The Dreamer bill would grant conditional legal status for 10 years to many undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US as children. The bill can also cancel removal proceedings if people meet certain requirements. 

Those requirements include being physically present in the U.S. on or before Jan. 1, 2021, being 18 years old or younger on the initial date of entry into the U.S. and not having been convicted of crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking.

Immigrant rights groups celebrated the news of its passage. “This is a result of years of organizing and pressure from the immigrant rights movement, but we’ll continue to hold our celebration until the very end,” tweeted the advocacy group Raices.

As president, Trump rescinded the Obama-era Daca program, which offered temporary protection from deportation to Dreamers. However, the supreme court ruled in 2020 that Trump’s move had been unlawful.

Immigration Reform

The Biden administration backed both bills. But it also urged lawmakers to adopt broader reforms in Biden’s sweeping immigration bill introduced last month, saying this would secure the border and “address the root causes of instability and unsafe conditions causing migration from Central America”.

“We can’t keep waiting,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “I urge Congress to come together to find long term solutions to our entire immigration system so we can create a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system, tackle the root causes of migration and legalize the undocumented population in the United States.”

Biden’s wide-ranging plan would provide a path to US citizenship to the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. But the Senate’s No 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, said this week that goal does not have enough support in the House or Senate

And even if the Dreamers bill were to pass the Senate, it would still have limitations, including provisions around criminal history that could bar some young immigrants from legal status if they have committed a misdemeanour. It also gives the Department of Homeland Security discretion over which youths can be excluded from the path to citizenship, based on alleged gang affiliation or dispositions in juvenile court.

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