The House voted Thursday to offer citizenship to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children or who have fled war or natural disasters abroad.
On a near party-line 228-197 vote, lawmakers approved one bill giving legal status to around 2 million so-called “Dreamers” and hundreds of thousands of other illegal aliens from a dozen countries.
Nine largely moderate Republicans joined all Democrats in backing the bill.
Passage seemed imminent for a second measure creating similar protections for 1 million laborers who have worked in the U.S. illegally; the government estimates they make up half the nation’s agricultural laborers.
Both bills faced opposition from Republicans insistent that any immigration legislation bolster security at the Mexican border, which waves of migrants have tried breaching in recent weeks.
Republicans have accused congressional Democrats of ignoring that problem and President Joe Biden of fueling it by erasing former President Donald Trump’s tough immigration policies.
The bills’ prospects are gloomy in the evenly split Senate, where the 50 Democrats will need at least 10 GOP supporters.
The outlook is even grimmer for Biden’s goal of legislation granting citizenship to all 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
“They’re so much of our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. “These immigrant communities strengthen, enrich and ennoble our nation, and they must be allowed to stay.”
The number of migrants caught trying to cross the border last month — 100,441 — was the highest since March 2019. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the number is tracking toward a 20-year high.
“It is a Biden border crisis, and it is spinning out of control,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said.
Democrats were making that problem worse, Republicans argued, with bills they said would entice smugglers to sneak more people into the U.S. and provide amnesty to illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the country.
“We don’t know who these people are, we don’t know what their intentions are,” Republican Rep. Jody Hice said of illegal alien farm workers. He added, “It’s frightening, it’s irresponsible, it’s endangering American lives.”
During debate, Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York accused Republicans of espousing “white supremacist ideology” to oppose the bills.
The House approved similar versions of the bills in 2019, but they died in what was then a GOP-controlled Senate.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden supports both bills as “critical milestones toward much needed relief for the millions of individuals who call the United States home.”
The “Dreamer” bill would grant conditional legal status for 10 years to many immigrants up to age 18 who were brought into the U.S. illegally before this year. They’d have to graduate from high school or have equivalent educational credentials, not have serious criminal records and meet other conditions.
To attain legal permanent residence with a green card, they’d have to obtain a higher education degree, serve in the military or be employed for at least three years. Like all others with green cards, they could then apply for citizenship after five years.
The measure would also grant green cards to an estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants with temporary protected status, which allows temporary residence to people who have fled violence or natural disasters in a dozen countries.
The other bill would let immigrant farm workers who’ve worked in the country illegally over the past two years — along with their spouses and children — get certified agriculture worker status. That would let them remain in the U.S. for renewable 5 1/2-year periods.
To earn green cards, they would have to pay $1,000 and work for up to an additional eight years, depending on how long they’ve already held farm jobs.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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