The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved by bipartisan votes two historic pieces of legislation that would put millions onto a path to citizenship. The Dream and Promise Act, which would put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and temporary status holders onto a path to citizenship, passed first that day, 228 to 197. It won votes from nine Republicans.
Passing second on Thursday was the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would similarly put farmworkers on a path to legal status and ensure critical protections. That legislation passed 247 to 174, gaining support from 30 Republicans. When that bill first passed the House during the previous session of Congress, it marked the first time in decades that the chamber had passed an agricultural labor immigration bill.
“The votes were significant milestones for the Dreamers and other activists who have waged a decade-long campaign, often at great personal risk, to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States out of the shadows,” The New York Times reported. “Dreamers, those who have temporary status and agricultural workers in many cases have lived in the United States for long periods, and measures to normalize their status enjoy broad public support.”
These bills were previously blocked in the U.S. Senate by then-Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But even after Mitch’s demotion following the 2020 election, it’s the Jim Crow filibuster now threatening the future of these massively popular bills. It wouldn’t be the first, second, or even third time its done so, said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who last month reintroduced the DREAM Act in that chamber.
“I haven’t made the Dream Act a law of the land because of one thing: the filibuster,” he tweeted following Dream and Promise Act’s passage. “Five times I brought this measure to the floor of the Senate and was stopped by the filibuster.” The very first version of the DREAM Act was introduced exactly 20 years ago, with about a dozen versions introduced in the years since. “Despite bipartisan support for each iteration of the bill, none have become law,” American Immigration Council said. “To date, the 2010 bill came closest to full passage when it passed the House but fell just five votes short of the 60 needed to proceed in the Senate.”
In a floor speech on Thursday, Durbin said that “[w]hen we receive the Dream and Promise Act from the House of Representatives, we will have an opportunity to see if 10 Republican senators can join us in an effort to finally pass it.”
That same day, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho issued a joint statement applauding passage of the farmworker bill, calling it “crucial legislation to make much-needed reforms to our immigration system for our producers and farmworkers.”
“House passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is an important step toward bringing certainty to our country’s agriculture industry and the hard-working producers and farmworkers who have sustained the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said. “We will work together to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate that appropriately addresses the needs of both the industry and the farmworkers that uphold it.”
But whether either the Dream and Promise Act or Farm Workforce Modernization Act can gain support from enough Republican senators despite the overwhelming public support for the acts is another story, and will only add to the urgent need to tear down this archaic wall blocking progress for the people. As Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter writes, there’s an active push happening right now.
“There is a concerted push from Democratic leadership right now, starting at the top with President Joe Biden, to get D.C. prepared for filibuster reform,” she writes. “Make no mistake, it’s D.C. that needs to be led to it. The entire remainder of the country couldn’t give a damn. They just want a government that is not only capable of doing things to make their lives better and save the country from a pandemic, but which wants to do those things. How these policies are enacted makes very little difference; no one is returning a survival check because it was made possible by the Senate choosing to pass it with budget reconciliation instead of a regular order in the Senate.”