President Biden will use his first speech to Congress Wednesday night to renew his call for immigration reform legislation despite a disastrous surge of migrants to the US-Mexico border since he took office, according to a report.
Biden will call for a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US, while signaling he’s open to bills that legalize smaller subsets, the Washington Post reports.
Republicans have accused Biden of creating new “pull” factors for migration with the legislation.
The House of Representatives last month passed two bills that would create paths to citizenship for about half of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, including farmworkers and people brought illegally to the US as children.
But passage in the evenly divided Senate is more difficult and requires a 60-vote supermajority.
The House has not held a vote on Biden’s more comprehensive amnesty proposal because Democrats have a narrow six-vote majority and some centrists are uncomfortable with the broader plan.
Both House-passed bills won significant Republican support in the lower chamber.
The American Dream and Promise Act passed 228-197 with nine Republicans joining all Democrats voting in favor. It would create a path to citizenship for young migrants and also refugees with Temporary Protected Status.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed 247-174 with 30 Republicans joining most Democrats in favor and one Democrat voting in opposition.
But GOP leaders said the bills were poorly timed. The legislation “ignores the problem, but will actually worsen the situation,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who accused Biden of sparking a surge in migration with his 2020 campaign rhetoric and recent border policies.
There’s at least a 20-year high in illegal crossings and children are held in cramped, jail-like conditions.
The Migration Policy Institute estimated the American Dream and Promise Act would benefit up to 4.4 million eligible people, though the bill’s sponsors estimated a smaller figure — 2.5 million — in a press release. It would create a 10-year conditional status before people can apply for citizenship. People brought illegally to the US as children and the roughly 400,000 people living in the US with TPS would qualify.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a two-year temporary residency status for agricultural workers. The Certified Agricultural Worker status could be renewed indefinitely so long as the recipient continued to work. After 10 years of work and a $1,000 fine, they could gain a green card. Green-card holders generally can apply for citizenship after five years.
The number of farm workers who would qualify is unclear because workers often have false identification documents. Government and nonprofit estimates vary but are in the ballpark of 1 million people.
A counter-proposal from a group of Republicans led by Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) would couple a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants to tighter enforcement of immigration laws and increased border security.
Republicans attribute the migrant surge in part to Biden border policy changes. In February, Biden terminated former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims.
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