House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who has been eerily silent of late, came out of his COVID-19 cave armed with a titillating missive about finally reforming immigration. Since the Trump administration was pilloried for kids in cages and detainees drinking toilet water, the issue was put far down the list on objectives the Democrats were out to accomplish. Now that COVID is on the way out, Congress is ready to fix this mess on the southern border.
As Steny’s message relayed to the American people: The House is gonna get jiggy with both the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
And good ol’ Steny believes there will shortly be a bipartisan Kumbaya.
Cages? Nope. Containers Are Better
With so much wailing and handwringing by the left as Trump attempted to reform immigration, little has been said about the new administration not changing much of anything down south. The Obama administration crafted detention cages and separated minor children from unverified adults. Trump continued the practice, and now Biden’s border people have created shipping containers to store children waiting for parentage proof. Do Hoyer and his comrades have the solution both sides of the political aisle will endorse?
The last comprehensive bill was brought up in 2013, sponsored by a group of bipartisan senators, and then dismembered and killed by the House. What are the odds we’re going to experience another excruciatingly painful death, this time on the Senate floor? The two bills may be the most expansive immigration requests ever debated in Congress.
The American Dream and Promise Act is the original DREAM Act on steroids. Not only are DREAMers at the top of the heap for citizenship, but those with a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) will have nearly immediate citizen status decisions. Basically, this includes every type of humanitarian protection for those fleeing from natural disasters, armed conflict, or “extraordinary circumstances.” It would alleviate the limbo for 2.5 million folks waiting on citizenship.
The question Republicans will face is whether the parameters of the bill are enough for a compromise. For example, DREAMers would be required to jump through a few hoops to be considered for “conditional permanent residency.” And that comes with requirements:
- DREAMers would have to earn a GED or high school diploma.
- Pass a background check – a felony conviction leads to deportation.
- They must have been in the U.S. for at least four years and arrived before they turned 18.
The Farm Modernization Act is an attempt to grant status for migrant workers without the confusion of conflicting edicts and past rules. And Republicans seem ready to embrace the bill. In a nutshell, farmworkers who have been in agriculture for 180 days or longer over 24 months can apply for “Certified Agricultural Worker.” They get legal paperwork that is renewable and gives ag workers a path to a green card. And that isn’t easily achieved: the worker must have four years of experience under his or her belt in the ag-industry – and fork over a $1,000 fee.
Consensus On The Horizon Or A Filibuster Brouhaha?
After years of battling conservatives, Democrats feel they may have a slight chance to push this legislation through: so much so that no one is even talking about the Biden immigration plan. That plan has been shelved for the time being.
If Democrats are successful with the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, it will be a crowning achievement. Whether or not they can get the support of the U.S. Senate may depend on how far they wish to go in eradicating the filibuster. Yes, ending or watering-down the filibuster can go a long way toward rubber-stamping the dreams of the Democrats. But if there is an opportunity for consensus and bipartisanship, pursuing it would be the most brilliant move to date by the party in power begging for unity.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.