House Democrats Prepare to Vote on Two Amnesty Bills
FAIR Take | March 2021
The U.S. House of Representatives is about to vote on two amnesty bills, all in the midst of rapidly rising border apprehensions and falling ICE arrests. Instead of addressing the self-created Biden border crisis, House Democrats plan to vote on two amnesty bills last seen in the 116th Congress – H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, and H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Both bills would place millions of illegal aliens on a pathway to citizenship while doing nothing to fix our country’s broken immigration system.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that the House of Representatives will vote on two immigration amnesty bills during the week of March 15th. This comes as President Biden’s larger, more comprehensive 14.5-million-person amnesty bill ran into detractors on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress. House Democrats believe that these smaller bills, which the House passed in the 116th Congress, can move quickly through the House again and then reach the Senate, where the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority.
H.R. 6 – the American Dream and Promise Act
The American Dream and Promise Act is the Democrats’ partisan amnesty bill that places so-called “Dreamers,” Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and others on a pathway to citizenship. In the 116th Congress, this bill passed 237 to 187, with only seven Republicans voting with Democrats.
The “Dream” provision attempts to remedy the legal status of so-called “Dreamers” – illegal alien children who arrived in the United States before they turned 18. This population exceeds over 2 million or so individuals, and goes well beyond the roughly 700,000 who registered with Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through President Barack Obama’s legally questionable Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Incredibly, illegal aliens qualify for the H.R. 6 amnesty even if they have a felony on their record or under three misdemeanors. Even if the government denies their petition, H.R. 6 gives illegal aliens the ability to challenge the government’s ruling and prevents the government from deporting any aliens fitting the bill’s parameters until they have gone through the administrative and judicial review process
The “Promise” aspect places all 400,000 aliens with active TPS a pathway to citizenship. It would do the same for an additional 840 Liberians in the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program, a similar but different program from TPS. Lawmakers intended TPS to be a temporary form of withholding a removal order for nationals from a country disrupted by natural disaster. It is nominally a temporary program, but has cascaded into a never-ending series of renewals that have given recipients a false sense of permanent residence in the United States. Rather than ending these short-sighted designations, Congress wants to give their recipients a green card for no compelling reason.
FAIR opposed H.R. 6 in the 116th Congress and continues to oppose the bill in the 117th Congress. Large-scale amnesty for illegal aliens would be bad policy, even under the best of circumstances. Amnesty in the midst of a full-blown border crisis of President Biden’s own making is an affront to commonsense and the American people. This bill does not acknowledge the crisis at the border or the abuse of our asylum process, much less offer any steps to remedy the situation. It offers a clear indication that amnesty and virtually unchecked migration are now the lone priorities of House Democrats on immigration. The only crisis, as far as House Democrats see it, is the lack of amnesty for illegal aliens already here, and this bill aims to “fix” that problem.
H.R. 1603 – the Farm Workforce Modernization Act
The second bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, is an effort to amnesty over 1.5 million illegal alien farmworkers, expand the H-2A program, add 40,000 green cards to the EB-3 category, and mandate E-Verify across the agriculture sector. Despite the catchy title, the bill does nothing to actually modernize America’s agricultural workforce.
The bill creates a pathway to citizenship for over 1.5 million illegal alien farmworkers. Anywhere from 1.5 to 2.1 million illegal aliens working in agriculture will become eligible for a new immigration status called Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW). The bill shields CAW and even CAW-eligible aliens from deportation. CAW aliens can eventually apply for green cards through an archaic system that resembles indentured servitude. Aliens who worked in agriculture for at least 10 year before the bill’s enactment must work under CAW status for at least 4 additional years before applying for a green card. Alternatively, aliens who worked for less than 10 years before enactment must work at least 8 more years under CAW status. It is unclear how aliens would prove their length of employment and presents the opportunity for widespread fraud.
Like all amnesties, this bill would encourage further illegal immigration into the United States. Further, it does not address agricultural labor needs in the future. A better bill would focus on expanding agriculture’s access to labor-saving technology. An amnesty today does not solve the labor needs of tomorrow, and we will face this same predicament down the road.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a naked attempt at mass amnesty. The bill would amnesty over 1 million illegal aliens and encourage further illegal immigration. Further, it would place the amnestied aliens in a strange limbo period, tying them to agriculture for years using a restricted work permit and promising a path to citizenship. As FAIR’s government relations team has noted in the press and informed lawmakers on Capitol Hill, this is indentured servitude.
Nothing in the bill “modernizes” America’s agricultural workforce. That would require automating many of these jobs using advanced technology and programs designed to give farmers access to those innovations. Further, the framework for improving legal farm labor already exists – fix problems with the current H-2A program. This, and encouraging the adoption of labor- and cost-saving automated harvesting technologies, represents true modernization. Another senseless amnesty does not.