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House Passes Legislation Providing Pathways To Citizenship for Dreamers, Farmworkers



  • The U.S. House passed two separate pieces of legislation Thursday aimed at reforming key immigration programs and creating pathways to citizenship.
  • The first bill, which was approved by a near party-line vote of 228-197, would provide a process for children brought to the U.S. illegally to gain citizenship for higher education, work, or military service.
  • Under the second bill, which was passed with a more bipartisan margin of 247-174, farmworkers and their families would be eligible to become American citizens if they meet certain criteria.
  • Both bills face an uphill battle in the Senate, as Republicans have indicated Democrats will have to make concessions on key amnesty and customs enforcement issues if they want the overhauls to have any future.

The American Dream and Promise Act

The U.S. House of Representatives approved two bills Thursday that would provide paths to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The first bill, called the American Dream and Promise Act, would create a process for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — known as “Dreamers” — to apply for a 10-year period of conditional permanent residency that would culminate in eventual citizenship.

Under the legislation, recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and children brought to the U.S. before the age of 18 who are not currently enrolled in the program could apply if they enrolled in college or served in the military for at least two years or worked in the U.S. for three years.

In addition to the estimated 2.5 million individuals who came to the U.S. as children, the act would also cover hundreds of thousands of people under the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure programs, which extend protections to immigrants fleeing countries experiencing natural disasters or violence.

Despite broad public support for building a path to citizenship for Dreamers, the act passed 228-197, largely along party lines, with just nine Republicans joining Democrats.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act

By contrast, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the second bill passed Thursday, gained more bipartisan support.

The legislation, which would eventually give legal status to nearly a million farmworkers and their families, was approved 247-174, with 30 Republicans — many of whom serve heavily agriculture districts — joining nearly all Democrats.

If passed, the act would create an entirely new program for farmworkers, who often are left out of federal immigration debates.

Among other things, the legislation would allow the workers and their families to obtain legal status if they continue to work in agriculture and pay a $1,000 fee. 

The bill would also alter the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program to stabilize wage fluctuation, include the dairy industry, and implement a required nation-wide E-Verify program for employers.

Uphill Battle

The two measures will now be added to the growing pile of bills passed by the House in recent weeks that Democrats say are essential to President Joe Biden’s more progressive agenda items. Republicans, however, have written them off as liberal wishlists.

While Democrats argue the immigration actions will provide essential pathways to hardworking and highly qualified immigrants who are strongly embedded in American society, Republicans condemned both bills as “amnesty” for lawbreakers and accused Democrats of trying to open borders to people who will steal jobs.

Although neither bill deals with border security or customs enforcement, most Republicans used their debate time on Thursday to take aim at the recent surge of migrants at the border. Both pieces of legislation are likely to face similar opposition in the Senate, where talks are already underway.

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Il.) have introduced legislation that mirrors the American Dream and Promise Act by aiming to form citizenship mechanisms for child immigrants.

However, earlier this week, Graham signaled that Democrats would need to compromise on a number of Republican demands regarding the amnesty process, including re-instating the Trump-era rule that required children to wait in often dangerous conditions on the Mexican side of the southern border for their court hearings.

Following the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, Senators Michael Bennet (D-Co.) and Mike Crapo (R-Id.), announced in a statement saying they would be introducing a companion bill in the upper chamber that “appropriately addresses the needs of both the industry and the farmworkers that uphold it.”

Such a bill would likely face similar obstacles as the pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Still, President Biden has implored lawmakers to quickly implement at least short-term solutions while they consider taking up his much more ambitious U.S. Citizenship Act, which, among other things, would give legal status to nearly all undocumented immigrants in America.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)


McConnell Says He Would Block a Biden SCOTUS Nominee in 2024



The Senate Minority Leader also refused to say whether or not he would block a hypothetical nominee in 2023 if his party overtakes the chamber’s slim majority in the midterm elections.

McConnell Doubles Down 

During an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee from President Joe Biden in 2024 if Republicans took control of the Senate.

“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” he said. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.” 

McConnell’s remarks do not come as a surprise as they are in line with his past refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to the presidential election.

The then-majority leader received a ton of backlash for his efforts, especially after he forced through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just eight days before the 2020 election. At the time, McConnell argued the two situations were different because the Senate and the president were from the same party — a claim he reiterated in the interview.

McConnell also implied he may take that stance even further in comments to Hewitt, who asked if he would block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice if a seat were to be vacated at the end of 2023 about 18 months before the next inauguration — a precedent set by the appointment of Anthony Kennedy.

“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.

McConnell’s Calculus

Many Democrats immediately condemned McConnell’s remarks, including progressive leaders who renewed their calls to expand the court.

“Mitch McConnell is already foreshadowing that he’ll steal a 3rd Supreme Court seat if he gets the chance. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. We need to expand the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.).

Some also called on Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest SCOTUS judge, to retire.

“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for Demand Progress.

Others, however, argued that the response McConnell’s remarks elicited was exactly what he was hoping to see and said his timing was calculated.

The minority leader’s comments come as the calls for Breyer to step down have recently grown while the current Supreme Court term draws near, a time when justices often will announce their retirement.

On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was asked if she thought Breyer should leave the bench while Democrats still controlled the Senate. She responded that she was “inclined to say yes.”

With his latest public statement, McConnell’s aims are twofold here: he hopes to broaden divisions in the Democratic Party between progressives and more traditional liberals, who are more hesitant to rush Breyer to retire or expand the court, while simultaneously working to unite a fractured Republican base and encourage them to turn out in the midterm elections.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Hill)

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Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico



The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.

Texas Border Wall 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.

Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.

While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.

Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.

During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.

The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.

Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.

While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.

“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”

Ongoing Feud

Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.

Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months. 

Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.

Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.

The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.

During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Biden Ends Infrastructure Talks With Republicans



The president is now looking at other paths forward, including a plan being drafted by a bipartisan group of senators or the possibility of passing his proposal without Republican support.

Biden Looks to Bipartisan Group as Negotiations Collapse

After weeks of negotiations, President Joe Biden ended his efforts to reach an infrastructure deal with a group of Senate Republicans Tuesday.

Hopes for the centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda, however, are not dead. Lawmakers have already moved quickly to craft contingencies, outlining three main pathways for the next steps forward.

First, while an agreement between Biden and Republican senators is no longer an option, a joint deal is not off the table. Amid the ongoing negotiations, a bipartisan group of centrist senators have been quietly crafting an alternative plan in case the talks collapsed.

Currently, very few details of that plan are public, but the moderates have made it clear that their biggest division right now is the same sticking point that hung up Biden and the GOP group: how to fund the plan.

Negotiations on that front could prove very difficult, but they could also yield more votes. As a result, Biden indicated this path is his first choice, calling three members of the group Tuesday evening to cheer on their efforts.

Even if the group can come up with a deal that appeases Biden, the possibility still exists that not enough members would embrace it. In addition to funding questions, there are still disputes between Democrats and Republicans in regards to what constitutes “infrastructure.”

The president wants to expand the definition to more broad, economic terms. Republicans, however, have repeatedly rejected that, instead opting for more traditional conceptions of infrastructure.

As a result, while GOP lawmakers are worried that any proposal from the moderates would be too expansive, Democrats are concern that key provisions would be cut.

Other Alternatives

If a joint agreement cannot be reached, Biden’s second option for his infrastructure plan would be to forge ahead to pass a deal with just Democratic support in the Senate through budget reconciliation, the same procedure used to get the stimulus bill through.

Biden, for his part, does appear to at least be considering this option. In addition to calling the bipartisan group moderates Tuesday evening, he also spoke to Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about drafting a new budget outline Democrats could use for the reconciliation process.

That path, however, also faces hurdles. In order for Democrats to even approve legislation through this process, they need all 50 members to vote in favor — something that is not guaranteed, given that some moderate senators have voiced their opposition to passing bills without bipartisan support.

While Schumer did say that he would still start work on a reconciliation package, he also outlined the third possible option: two separate bills.

“It may well be part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan, and part of it will be through reconciliation,” he said Tuesday. “But we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NBC News)

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