House Immigration Reform Measures Now To Be Considered By Senate

The House passed two immigration reform bills recently. Attention now moves to the Senate to see … [+]

Last week, as the surge of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the southern border escalated, the House of Representatives passed two immigration bills. The first was the Dream and Promise Act which would grant lawful permanent residence status and an eventual pathway to citizenship for over three million undocumented immigrant youth and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders. The second bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would put about one million undocumented farmworkers and their families on the path to citizenship and improve the H-2A temporary worker program. A recent survey of Americans found broad support for these two initiatives: the DREAM Act had 72% support and citizenship for undocumented farmworkers had 71% support.

Welcoming the immigration initiatives in the House, Sergio Gonzales, Executive Director of the Immigration Hub, a national organization dedicated to advancing immigration policies, said, “Today is a great day for immigrant communities, advocates and allies in our fight for a just and humane immigration system … For too long, especially over the last four years, immigrant communities have been forced to live in fear that they could be deported at any moment. Today’s vote is also a critical step towards our goal of establishing a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.”

The Democrats and Republicans are locked in battle over immigration policy. The Senate floor is … [+]


The question now is can these measures garner sufficient support in the Senate to get the 60 votes needed for passage there? Commenting on that challenge, Douglas Rivlin, of the immigrant advocacy group America’s Voice said, “If anything is going to get 60 votes and build a coalition around it, it’s these two bills for deeply rooted, long-term immigrants and deeply rooted agriculture in lots of places, red states,” At the very least, he said “It allows us to see where Republicans are.”

But as the New York Times pointed out, “after colliding with a wave of hardened Republican opposition in the House, the bills now face steep odds in the evenly divided Senate. While some Republicans there have pledged support for Dreamers in the past, their party is increasingly uniting behind a hard-line strategy to deny the president the votes he needs to make any new immigration law and use the worsening situation at the border as a political cudgel.” Republican Lindsey Graham, who introduced a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate in early February said, “God, no,” when he was asked if he would support his own bill in the Senate today. He added, “I’m not in support of legalizing one person until you’re in control of the border.”

The truth is that the southern border has never been secure, and it is not likely to be completely secure any time soon. That America cannot capture every illegal border crosser is no argument against doing the best we can. That is true. But it is also true that waiting for a time when America can block every illegal border crosser is no reason for failing to make other improvements to the system in the meantime.

Deepak Bhargava suggests passing the immigration reforms in an economic recovery package.

So how could these proposed measures be passed in the Senate? Despite everything, the polls tells us there is broad support among Americans for these proposals. That should be a reason to continue efforts to attract 60 supporters for the legislation.

Alternatively, if these efforts are not fruitful, Deepak Bhargava, the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions, and Strategies for a Progressive Future and a lecturer at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies suggests that, “The best path for immigration legislation in the Senate is inclusion of legalization for Dreamers, essential workers and farmworkers in upcoming economic recovery legislation.” In other words, rather than advancing the bills as stand alone measurers, pro-immigrant legislators should try to include the provisions in an omnibus larger economic recovery package.

The days ahead will clarify whether there are enough Republican lawmakers in the Senate to pass the measures. Whether the proposals are passed as stand alone measures, or as part of a larger economic reform effort, a vast majority of Americans including millions of immigrants and their supporters will be watching. Failure to pass the bills will force the Biden administration into advancing immigration reforms through a much less effective way, by adopting presidential proclamations and administrative changes. In the end, however, the question will boil down to what is in the best interests of the American people.

I am a U.S. and Canadian Immigration attorney and have helped over 10,000 clients with various legal problems. I am a member of the New York and California bars in the US