On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed a memorandum fortifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. His administration also has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to more individuals: those from Venezuela and Burma. Building on this, President Biden also proposed broad legislative immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for DACA (or Dreamers) and TPS beneficiaries, as well as for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States. But finding enough bipartisan support for passing broad immigration reform is far from assured. In recognition of that, the administration has adopted a “multiple trains” strategy to move specific pieces of the plan.
On March 18, 2021, the House passed two such bills: The American Dream and Promise Act (“Dream Act”) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (“Farm Act”).
The Dream Act would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, certain TPS beneficiaries, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) beneficiaries, approximately two million people in total. The bill passed the House with a 228 to 197 bipartisan majority. The Farm Act passed with a larger 247 to 174 bipartisan majority. It would allow undocumented farm workers who pass necessary background checks and pay a $1,000 fine to receive temporary legal status. This status could be renewed indefinitely for as long as the individual maintains farm employment. There would also be a path to permanent residency for longtime workers, streamlining of the H-2A visa process, new wage standards, and a mandate for E-Verify for agriculture.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the essential nature of the work performed by many DACA, TPS, and DED beneficiaries, particularly in healthcare, as well as work performed by undocumented workers, especially in agriculture, ranching, and the dairy industry. Despite that, some Senators’ concerns about amnesty, asylum policies, and the increase in individuals detained at the Southern border may delay or block the passage of the bills.
Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates as they become available.