By Rhina Guidos | Catholic News Service
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to look at two bills on the immigration front March 18, both seeking a path toward citizenship for two groups: younger unauthorized immigrants called “Dreamers” and a second one to help migrant farmworkers become citizens.
Both measures are favored to pass in the House but face greater opposition in the U.S. Senate, particularly at a time when politicians are fighting over whether there is an immigration crisis at the border.
While neither bill is expected to become law, they serve more as bellwethers of what the battle for immigration reform could look like under President Joe Biden.
Earlier in the year, the Biden administration rolled out a road map toward that goal under the name of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced in Congress Feb. 18. It seeks to legalize some 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S., with a special focus on reunification of families.
It would offer immediate permanent resident status to some groups, such as young adults brought into the U.S. illegally as children, farmworkers and those under a program known as Temporary Protected Status, while also providing an eight-year path to citizenship for others.
The American Dream and Promise Act for unauthorized immigrants has enjoyed strong backing in the past as it seeks to provide young adults brought to the country illegally as children a path toward citizenship.
It would similarly benefit immigrants in the country with Temporary Protected Status. The program grants a work permit and reprieve from deportation to certain people whose countries have experienced natural disasters, armed conflicts or exceptional situations so they can remain temporarily in the United States.
Seven Republicans broke ranks and voted for the bill in 2019 in the House, but the proposed legislation didn’t have the votes to pass in the Senate.
Early signs show a tough road ahead. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., urged Republicans March 17 against voting for the Dream Act, instead steering the conversation toward the border.
“The bill would only worsen the flow of illegal immigrates to the U.S.,” Scalise said to colleagues in a statement.
The Farm Modernization Workforce Act, which would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers, also enjoyed bipartisan backing in an earlier version with 34 Republicans backing the bill in 2019.
Pundits will be looking at the arguments that will arise March 18 in favor and against the bills to gauge what obstacles may be ahead for any sweeping immigration reform effort.