WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Young “Dreamer” immigrants living illegally in the United States would be placed on a path to citizenship under a bill to be voted upon in the House of Representatives on Thursday, as Democrats try to reverse former President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
A second measure would shield about 1 million immigrant farm workers from deportation with the goal of also granting them citizenship eventually.
The measures coincide with Democratic President Joe Biden’s efforts to contain a surge of undocumented immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of them fleeing dangerous conditions in Central American countries.
The southwest border situation has hardened Republican opposition to helping Dreamers — around 1.8 million young immigrants who entered the United States as children. They made the dangerous journey on their own, with parents or hired hands, often to escape gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries.
Many have spent most of their lives in the United States and have been educated in U.S. schools.
House Republican leaders said they were urging their rank-and-file to vote against the bill. But Democrats were banking on garnering enough votes for passage even if Republicans do not help them.
“There’s no pathway for anything right now,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters on Tuesday when asked about Senate prospects for the Dreamers bill.
The measure also would help a separate group of immigrants who came from countries that were devastated by civil wars and natural disasters and had qualified for temporary protections in the United States.
As president, Trump significantly rolled back the Temporary Protected Status program. In 2017 he also rescinded former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program aimed at shielding qualifying Dreamers from deportation.
Court rulings and the Biden administration have kept DACA alive at least for now.
Biden has expressed support for enacting wide-ranging immigration legislation to replace outdated 1986 laws. Some 11 million immigrants have been living in the United States illegally for years.
Democrats had hoped that the two more narrow measures up for House votes on Thursday might have the support of enough Republicans to win passage in the Senate, where a super-majority of 60 votes is needed for most legislation to advance in the 100-member chamber.
Democrats began pushing for Dreamer protections in 2001. But time after time, most recently in 2018, legislation sputtered in the House or Senate amid opposition from Republicans, many of whom argued illegal immigrants should not be rewarded, no matter their age.
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