In his first week in office, President Joe Biden proposed a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. We discussed the bill here on our blog. Such a bill, in order to be enacted, would need to pass through Congress to become law. Unfortunately, due to the situation at the border, Congress is not taking up the bill as its become far too controversial. Instead, Congress appears to be focusing on passing more popular parts of the bill that may be able to garner support from both political parties. The House of Representatives, for example, just passe two immigration bills, the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Both bills offer a path to legalization for certain groups of immigrants by creating new categories and reforming old ones.
The Dream and Promise Act of 2021 seeks to provide those brought to the United States illegally as children (known as Dreamers), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) individuals with protection from deportation and a path to eventual citizenship if they meet certain requirements. If the Act were to pass, it would mean 2.3 million Dreamers, a combined 400,000 TPS holders and individuals with DED, and 170,000 “Legal Dreamers,” or those whose have aged out of their parents’ visas, would have a pathway to citizenship in the United States.
The Act has a major focus on the Dreamers, creating a new status called “conditional permanent residency” that would protect them from deportation, allow them to work legally in the United States, and permit them to travel outside of the country for up to 10 years. During these 10 years, Dreamers could apply for legal status or “lawful permanent residency” once certain requirements are met. The Act also includes additional provisions that impact Dreamers such as streamlined procedures, the waiver of certain inadmissibility bars, and access to federal financial aid. After the Dreamers, the Act addresses TPS holders and individuals with DED. The Act protects these immigrants from deportation and would allow them to adjust their status to “lawful permanent residency” once certain requirements are met.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 focuses on reforming the process by which immigrants can migrate to the United States to work in agriculture. The Act has three major provisions: creating a pathway to legalization for current undocumented immigrants working in agricultural jobs with an eventual option to become permanent citizens; reforming the existing H-2A visa program; and requiring all agriculture employers to implement a reformed E-Verify program to make sure all workers are accounted for. Congress will attempt to pass these bills first and then may move on to increasing or reforming the employment-based immigration system once the border situation is under control.