U.S. lawmakers continue to address immigration policy and last month took a step toward helping millions of undocumented immigrants by passing two bills that would grant legal status to those living and working in the country. The bills primarily passed along party lines with a majority of Democrats in favor of them.
Those immigrants likely will be able to gain legal status and citizenship thanks to the two U.S. House bills passed on March 18. This broad group of immigrants includes agricultural workers along with those known as “dreamers” – people brought unlawfully into the country when they were children. The bills, however, face significant challenges in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans expressed opposition.
‘Dreamers,’ agriculture workers benefit
The bills are known as the American Dream and Promise Act, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The former passed in the House on a vote of 228-197. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in passing the legislation. The latter bill passed 247-174 as 30 Republicans voted for it and one Democrat voted against it.
The first bill applies to immigrants known as “Dreamers” – those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from 2012 under the Obama administration. This group consists of roughly 2.5 million who came to the U.S. as children. The law would allow them to gain eligibility for citizenship.
The second bill addresses farm workers illegally in the country and would provide them with a path toward legal status. Experts estimated that half of the current 2.4 million agriculture workers in the country are undocumented. Some workers could gain green cards or legal permanent residency once they pay a fine and remain in the agriculture industry for four to eight years, dependent upon the length of time they already have performed this work.
If you are among either of these immigrant groups or have family members considered “Dreamers” or agriculture workers, understand that challenges remain. However, you also have legal advocates ready to help you.