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This is the Year to Legalize Millions

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Introduction of “Dream and Promise Act” and “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” Builds Momentum


The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, in response to the introduction of two critical pieces of immigration legislation, the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

The American people are ready for decisive action to put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship. Democrats in Congress are ready. President Biden and Vice-President Harris are ready. And most of all immigrant youth, TPS holders, farm workers and other undocumented immigrants are ready. This is the year to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. Inaction is not an option. Victory is within reach. 

Have no doubt. President Biden’s proposal to create a roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America, led by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) is our goal. The content and the sentiment behind the Biden bill and other proposals to put millions on pathways to citizenship demonstrate a confident, forward-looking and optimistic America. This in stark contrast to the fearful, hateful and soulless view advanced by Trump and a vastly diminished and dour GOP. 

We will not stop fighting until the many excellent provisions of the Biden bill are ultimately enacted into law, and we believe our best strategy to legalize millions this year is to go as far as we can for as many as we can as fast as we can. By achieving a breakthrough this year for millions this year, we believe we will gain momentum and build power to achieve freedom for all 11 million in the near future.

That is why we are thrilled that the House of Representatives is moving bills to the House floor in March. As we understand it, the House will hold votes on at least two measures that were approved in the last Congress – the Dream and Promise Act that will cover some 3 million young immigrants and TPS holders, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that will legalize over 1 million farm workers. Approving these measures in March will generate momentum for Senate action as they prep a jobs and infrastructure package. It is our intention that the Senate package include legalization for immigrant youth, TPSers, farm workers and other essential workers. 

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act has the support of key farm state Republicans and key pro-immigrant Democrats and is a rare bipartisan ray of light in a typically partisan Congress. Growers and farm labor organizations both support the legislation that finally addresses the legal status of the people who feed America who lack legal immigration status, but who literally sustain every American every day. Farm workers and their families are inarguably vital to America and our laws should reflect that.

No bill is perfect. There are provisions in both bills that are cause for concern. For example, the Dream and Promise Act includes troubling provisions that will exclude from a path to permanent status some who have had minor brushes with a harsh and discriminatory criminal justice system. These additional exclusions should be stripped from the bill or at least ameliorated as the legislation moves forward.  

For the American people, legalizing millions of deeply-rooted undocumented immigrants is a settled debate. Undocumented immigrants are part of families – often mixed-status families – that work, live and participate in our neighborhoods, schools, religious institutions and communities. Extending to them labor, civil and political rights that put them on an equal footing with their fellow Americans is long overdue. 

The introduction of the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and the votes expected in the House this month are exactly the right steps to take to achieve a breakthrough this year. It is time for undocumented immigrants to be formally recognized as the Americans they already are.

A Quinnipiac University national poll released in February 2021 found:

  • By an 83-12% margin, Americans support Dreamers’ citizenship, described in the Quinnipiac poll as “allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the United States and eventually apply for citizenship.”
  • Republican respondents support Dreamers’ citizenship by a 66-30% margin. The Quinnipiac poll found that 99% of Democratic respondents, 83% of Independents, and 66% of Republicans.