‘Dreamers’ and Farmworker Bills Pass House; Fate in Senate Uncertain

Mar 22, 2021 | Immigration Updates, Nonimmigrant Visas, Permanent Immigration Visas

On March 18, 2021, two bills that would create a legalization pathway for “Dreamers” and for farmworkers (H-2A temporary agricultural workers) received bipartisan support and passed in the House of Representatives.

Passage in the Senate is uncertain, however. According to observers, prospects for both bills in their current form seem dim. Some believe that the agricultural worker bill has a better chance of passage intact. The “Dreamer” bill could pass in at least a scaled-down version. Efforts are being made to persuade a sufficient number of Senate Republicans to vote in favor of the bills, although there has been a hardening of Republicans’ strategy against passing any immigration-related legislation in the Senate while they spotlight difficult conditions at the U.S. border with Mexico and blame President Biden and the Democrats. As Sen. Lindsey Graham has stated, “There is no pathway for anything right now.”

In addition to working toward Senate passage, Democrats are considering various other options, including breaking the legislation into smaller pieces that might have an easier chance of passage, tacking immigration measures onto other legislation that has attracted more bipartisan support, or killing the filibuster so only a simple majority would be needed for passage rather than a threshold of 60 votes.

Highlights of the two bills follow:

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6), which passed the House 228–197, would:

  • Create a pathway to legalization for an estimated 2.5 million “Dreamers” who came to the United States as children
  • Grant conditional permanent residence for 10 years, subject to qualifying requirements (e.g., being continuously physically present in the United States since January 1, 2021, passing a background check, and being enrolled in or completing certain educational programs)
  • Grant full permanent resident status subject to certain requirements (conditions on permanent residence would be removed, e.g., if the person completes certain programs at an educational institution, serves in the military, or obtains employment)
  • Cancel removal proceedings for eligible people and provide a path to permanent residence for certain beneficiaries of temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1603), which passed the House 247–174, would:

  • Streamline the H-2A agricultural worker visa process
  • Establish a pathway for eligible farmworkers (and their spouses and children) to obtain permanent residence (green cards) by continuing to work in agriculture and paying a $1,000 fine
  • Create a temporary status called “Certified Agricultural Worker”

Roughly one million farmworkers could be affected by the legislation.

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