The debate over U.S. immigration policies has intensified over the last week due to a surge of migrants at the U.S. border. As local organizations face a growing humanitarian crisis in their communities, and FEMA has been dispatched to the border to help manage the influx, the House is set to take up two immigration bills this week.
Recent administrations have all endeavored to address U.S. immigration policy, but there have been few lasting changes, a testament to the complexities of immigration reform. The Biden administration has listed immigration as a top priority issue, calling for creating an eight-year earned path to citizenship for immigrants who were present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021, and can pass a background check and pay taxes.
House Republicans unveiled a rebuttal to Biden’s plan this week, which would boost funding for border security, protect undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, known as “Dreamers,” and provide a 10-year path to a renewable legal status for undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes.
It is unlikely that any comprehensive immigration proposal will pass in Congress – Biden’s proposal doesn’t have the votes to pass even in the Democrat-led House in its current form, some say. House Democrats are focused on two piecemeal bills instead: One would grant Dreamers a path to citizenship, and one would expand the number of seasonal farmworkers allowed to enter the U.S. and work legally. Both proposals are likely to pass the House, but again face long odds in the Senate because of the 60-vote hurdle and Republican opposition.
Digging Into the Data
- The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 puts more Dreamers on a path to citizenship largely by expanding eligibility requirements. An estimated 2.3 million Dreamers are expected to be eligible, should the legislation pass.
- The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would expand the current H-2A seasonal worker program to include full-time and year-round workers for dairy and other agricultural businesses.
- More than 400,000 migrant children have crossed the US border without their parents since 2003. Currently, more than 13,000 migrant children are in U.S. custody.
- In the month of February, southern border migrant encounters are up 28% from the month prior, and a staggering 174% from the same time last year.
- 69% of American adults support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in a late January 2021 poll by Vox and Data for Progress, with a jump in support (72%) when addressing Dreamers.
- 77% of Republicans said in a Feb. 18-24 poll that they want more fencing along the southern border with Mexico, up six points from 2015. And 56% do not want illegal immigrants to have a path to citizenship, which is up 18 percentage points from a 2018 survey.
- The last comprehensive immigration bill, sponsored by a group of bipartisan senators, was brought up in 2013. That legislation, which included a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and tighter border security, passed the Senate with bipartisan support but died in the House.
- It’s been more than three decades since Congress last enacted broad immigration changes.
- Dive into our Policy Circle Brief on Immigration.
- Want to learn more about paths to citizenship legislation? Check out this series from A Starting Point.
- Take it local. Talk to your neighbors to understand how immigration affects your community. Identify opportunities to work with other community members in your area on this topic.
- Explore the impact of immigration policies in your community. Search for your state’s laws on Ballotpedia, or see if your county or nearby cities are sanctuary jurisdictions.
- Research your elected representatives’ positions on immigration, and their vision for how to tackle immigration-related challenges facing Americans and your community.
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