Houses votes put Dreamers, agriculture workers on path to legal status
The House on Thursday passed two immigration reform measures that would put more than 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. on the path to legal status.
The American Dream and Promise Act, which establishes a path to lawful permanent resident status for more than 2.3 million Dreamers, passed by a 228-197 vote. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of farmworkers living in the U.S., passed by a 247-174 vote.
“Immigrant communities in Virginia and across our country make America more American. In light of the devastating toll of the COVID-19 crisis on immigrant communities, the nation can no longer keep its back turned on its migrant workers, especially those in our agricultural workforce, or continue to delay action to ensure our nation’s DREAMers can stay in the only country they have ever called home,” Fourth District Democrat Donald McEachin said.
“I am pleased to support the historic, overwhelming popular, and common-sense reforms included in these bills, which advance the comprehensive and humane solutions our immigration system needs. Together, we can ensure all of our proud immigrant communities – who strengthen, enrich and contribute to our nation – can continue to pursue their American dream,” McEachin said.
The American Dream and Promise Act establishes a path to lawful permanent resident status for Dreamers, the majority of whom have been in the United States for much of their lives, often with work authorization and temporary protections against deportation.
Five years after attaining full LPR status, individuals are then eligible to apply for citizenship, a path that is supported by nearly 75 percent of the American public.
“Today the House is turning the page on years of partisan fighting and failure on immigration reform,” Eighth District Democrat Don Beyer said. “I have advocated for passage of the Dream Act since I came to Congress, it is a much needed and widely agreed upon fix to protect Dreamers. The legislation we just passed also gives protections to TPS-holders, an especially important issue for Northern Virginians. “
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act establishes a program for agricultural workers, their spouses and minor children can earn legal Certified Agricultural Worker status through continued agricultural employment.
The bill reforms the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers.
It also establishes a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system to ensure compliance with the reformed H-2A visa program while also protecting workers’ due process rights.
“In our one-on-one and direct conversations with me, Central Virginia farms, agribusinesses, and greenhouses have been clear that the existing H-2A program is in fundamental need of reforms. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides much-needed changes to our immigration system, including the H-2A program,” Seventh District Democrat Abigail Spanberger said.
“In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we need to focus on passing legislation that contributes to long-term economic security for the businesses that make our communities strong — and this legislation tackles many of the employment difficulties facing our district’s rural communities. By stabilizing the existing workforce, creating a year-round guest worker program, and simplifying the hiring progress for agribusinesses, this bill marks a step towards addressing a piece of the immigration and jobs challenges we face,” Spanberger said.
Story by Chris Graham