House Passes Two Immigration Bills As Border Crisis Intensifies

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The House passed two separate immigration bills Thursday evening, marking the first time the 117th Congress has voted on the issue under President Joe Biden.

The pair of bills are the first immigration proposals to be voted on since a surge of migrants reached the southern border, resulting in heightened scrutiny on the Biden administration over its handling of what Republicans have labeled a serious crisis.

The House first passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (ADPA), with nine Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the bill. The act would provide a pathway to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as young children, as well as for Temporary Protected Status recipients and Deferred Enforced Departure beneficiaries. The legislation, sponsored by California Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, could give over 4.4 million people a path to permanent status, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The House then passed, H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), which would allow farm workers and their families to earn legal status while they work in the agricultural sector, and would update the H-2A agricultural visa program. The bipartisan legislation, which passed with 30 Republicans joining Democrats, was co-sponsored by California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Washington Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse.

The two bills passed 228 to 197 and 247 to 174.

Both bills passed the House in the 116th Congress, but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. If the chamber votes on them this time around, they would each need 60 votes to clear a likely Republican filibuster.

Multiple House Republican lawmakers supported the bills during their first passage. Seven voted for the DPA, while 34 voted for the FWMA.

Their passage follows increasing Republican criticism over Democrats’ response to the skyrocketing number of migrants detained at the southern border, including a surge in unaccompanied children making the trek from Central America to the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials requested additional officers last Thursday in order to better respond to the surge, and on Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the worsening situation.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that southern border crossings are on pace to hit a 20-year high, and that Mexico’s limited capacity to shelter them has “strained” U.S. resources.

But he pushed back against Republican criticism, noting that the goal was a “safe, legal and orderly immigration system … based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a 12-member Republican delegation to the border Monday, saying that the situation was worse than he imagined.

“It’s worse than a crisis,” McCarthy said. “I thought I would see a crisis, but this is really a human heartbreak.”

President Joe Biden in January announced a comprehensive immigration reform plan in addition to the two bills, though Republicans have labeled it a non-starter.

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