Legislation Watch

August 1, 2021 § Leave a comment

While immigration remains a divisive topic among Americans, one thing is for certain: year after year, and poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. This bipartisan support is evident in a recent poll by Quinnipiac University in February 3, 2021 in which two-thirds of Americans favored allowing all unauthorized immigrants to obtain legal status and apply for citizenship. In that same poll, there was even more support for Dreamers and agricultural workers receiving citizenship.

Despite this widespread support among Americans, Congress has made little progress in its efforts of codifying a legal pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants. Currently, there are a handful of major pieces of legislation sitting idle in Congress that would offer extensive immigration reform and provide a comprehensive pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who work hard, contribute to our country’s prosperity, and often know of no other home. And while these legislative solutions remain in limbo, current patchwork solutions, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), continue to be dismantled and invalidated in the U.S. Judiciary system. It is for this exact reason that Congress must move forward in passing these reform bills that Americans overwhelmingly support.

Here is a current list of pending immigration legislation in Congress:

The Dream Act of 2021 (S.264), and The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R.6)

Both of these Acts would provide a permanent solution and a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose fate remains unclear due to ongoing litigation. H.R.6 would also provide a path to citizenship to beneficiaries of two humanitarian programs: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). H.R.6 would also repeal the 1996 law which penalizes states that grant in-state tuition to undocumented students on the basis of residency and would allow Dreamers to access federal financial aid. Lastly, H.R.6 would allow eligible Dreamers deported under the Trump administration to apply for relief from outside the country. H.R.6 passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and S.264 was introduced in the Senate in February 2021 where it has yet to see a vote.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, FWMA, (H.R.1603)

The FWMA would offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers, revise the H-2A agricultural worker program and impose mandatory employment verification through the E-Verify program in agriculture. These improvements would stabilize the farm labor force and ensure greater food safety and security for the country. This Act passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support and awaits a vote in the Senate.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (H.R.1177)

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 hews closely to the outline that Biden sent to Congress on his first day in office. The proposal includes an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., bolsters the nation’s refugee and asylum systems, reforms the immigrant visa system, addresses the root causes of migration and responsibly manages the Southern border. This Act was introduced in February, 2021.

Children Take the Headlines

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

With the possibility of immigration reform dead in the water (see interview between Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and The Washington Post on July 17) this year, immigration news continues to take headlines, with the focus on the innocent – the children.  As reported by Vox, in the past few years thousands of children under the age of 18 have fled Central America, hitched rides on top of trains through Mexico, and crossed into the United States on their own. On the way, they often suffer sexual assault or violence. 

“Congress and the Obama administration are scrambling to respond to the humanitarian crisis of 57,000 unaccompanied Central American children who’ve crossed the border into the US this year,” reports Vox

These children who are caught are supposed to stay in the custody of border patrol agents for no more than 72 hours so they can be screened.  However, the border patrol agents are so overwhelmed by this sudden influx that the problem is people don’t know what to do with all of these children who are now occupying intermediate detention centers — some of which are makeshift spaces on military bases – well beyond the required 72 hours. 

Children from Mexico have to prove to the Border Patrol officer that they fear persecution or trafficking in order to stay; otherwise they are sent right back to Mexico.  However, there are reports that many Mexican children who are in danger are still sent back to Mexico. 

A much debated issue is extending the opportunity of this type of protection to children from Central America. Many members of Congress in both parties have expressed support for the idea, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) are expected to introduce a bill to make the change soon.

Those children who are able to get past the initial screening are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement — part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to either be placed with available relatives or in long-term foster care. 

These children also go through an immigration process, some in front of an asylum officer and many in front of an immigration judge to determine their asylum claims. 

For a closer look at the way the US handles unaccompanied child migrants, see this Vox report.

Recap on S. 744 Immigration Reform

July 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

In June 2013 the Senate passed S. 744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  On 10/2/13 House Democrats introduced H.R. 15, “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” H.R. 15 is a comprehensive immigration reform bill modeled on Senate bill S.744, but replaces the controversial “border-surge” amendment with the McCaul bipartisan border security bill that passed unanimously out of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The House does not expect to pass this bill this year.

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