Substantial change to the immigration system is coming, albeit slower than some would prefer. President Biden’s overarching immigration reform bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, proposed on February 18, 2021 will take a backseat this month as smaller, “piece by piece” bills reach Congress next week. The first bill, titled The American Dream and Promise Act, would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA “Dreamers”, those who came to the U.S. at a young age, and have lived most of their lives in the U.S. without legal status. If passed, this bill would grant “Dreamers” conditional permanent resident status if they meet certain eligibility requirements, including but not limited to: continuous presence in the U.S. since January 1, 2021, the applicant being under 18 at the time of filing, and graduation from high school or holder of a GED, or working towards graduation. This bill would also create citizenship avenues for those with temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure (DED). TPS and DED are two temporary statuses given to immigrants from countries designated by USCIS to be dangerous and unstable. This bill would provide TPS or DED applicants with legal permanent resident status and cancellation of their removal proceedings if the applicant has been in the U.S. for three years before the bill’s enactment, and if they were eligible for TPS as of September 17, 2017, or DED as of January 20, 2021.
The second bill to be proposed next week, The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would provide citizenship options for undocumented farmworkers and improve the existing H-2A agricultural work visa program. Specifically, this bill would provide citizenship pathways to agricultural employees that can demonstrate consistent agricultural employment over the last two years, with five-year renewable visas, and an option for legal permanent resident status. The bill also proposes updates to the H-2A program, including wage increases to reflect U.S. minimum wage practices, limiting wage fluctuations, reducing housing costs for farmworkers, and streamlining the visa application and renewal processes.
Both bills will go to the House of Representatives next week to be deliberated and voted on, and, if passed, will go to the Senate for a second round of review and voting. Please contact Molina Law Group to speak with an attorney about your or your family members’ immigration options.