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House passes bills to give millions of illegal immigrants path to citizenship and it now moves to the Senate

Migrants. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
March 19, 2021

The House of Representatives voted in favor of two immigration bills late Thursday that would establish a path to citizenship for around four million illegal immigrants amid a surge of migrants overwhelming law enforcement agents at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

The Democrat-led lower chamber of Congress voted almost entirely along party lines 228 to 197 on the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), with just nine Republicans voting in favor of a measure. The bill seeks to create a legal avenue for more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants, including “Dreamers” who crossed the border illegally as children and those granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 is a critical first step in reforming our immigration system and will provide much needed relief to TPS holders and Dreamers, young people who came here as children and know no other country,” President Joe Biden said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “I support this bill, and commend the House of Representatives for passing this important legislation.”

Also on Thursday, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603) granting legal status to nearly one million farmworkers and their families – in addition to updating an agricultural visa program –  received more bipartisan support, with 30 GOP representatives joining almost every Democrat in support of the measure.  

“This House has another chance to pass H.R. 6 and once and for all end the fear and uncertainty that have plagued the life of America’s Dreamers, who have become an integral part of the fabric of American society,” said Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat and an author of the Dreamer bill. “It is an issue about who we are as Americans.”

House Republicans condemned the immigration bills as “amnesty” for individuals who have broken the law, accusing Democrats of wanting open borders that would allow immigrants to take American jobs, spread COVID-19 and contribute to the worsening crisis at the southern border.

“Why are so many children being placed in the hands of Mexican criminal cartels and forced to suffer the 2,000-mile trail of terror to our border? Because it works,” said Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA). “This bill proves the Mexican crime cartels are right. You’ll be admitted into our country, and need only wait until the next amnesty.”

The measures now head to the Senate where they face similar criticism.

“There is no pathway for anything right now,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said this week.

The Biden administration has repeatedly avoided calling the border situation a “crisis,” despite a 20-year high rate of illegal immigration that is overwhelming Customs and Border Patrol facilities.

Since Biden took office, the number of migrants encountered by border patrol agents has significantly increased, with more than 100,000 apprehended last month alone.

As of Sunday, over 4,000 unaccompanied children were being housed in Border Patrol facilities, with at least 3,000 remaining in CBP custody past the three-day legal limit, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.

More than 560 children were also taken into custody Monday, which is nearly twice the recent average, an official said.

Sen. Joe Manchin became the first prominent Democrat to break party lines and refer to the situation as a crisis during an appearance on CNN Monday.

“Whatever message was sent – it was sure interpreted the wrong way,” Manchin said while discussing the migrant surge.

“It’s a crisis,” he added. “Oh, it’s a crisis.”