Dream Act and TPS Bills Advance in House

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On May 22, the House Judiciary Committee approved the “Dream Act of 2019” (H.R. 2820).  The bill would extend legal status and create a path to citizenship for many who were brought to the United States illegally as children.  Legal status would be granted to persons who have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least four years before enactment, came to the U.S. before turning 18, meet certain educational or military service requirements, and have not committed certain crimes.

The committee also passed “The American Promise Act” (H.R. 2821), which would grant permanent resident status to immigrants who were covered by temporary protected status (TPS) as of January 1, 2017, and who have been continuously physically present in the U.S. for at least 3 years.  Also, the committee passed the “The Venezuela TPS Act” (H.R. 549), which would grant temporary protected status for an 18-month period to Venezuelans who have been continuously physically present the time that the bill is enacted. All three bills passed along a predominately party line vote. Republicans argued that Congress must first address border security and the migrant crisis at U.S. border with Mexico before addressing other immigration issues.

These actions are relevant to our industry for several reasons.  First, some in our industry have employees who were granted work authorization under the Obama-era “deferred action for childhood arrivals” or DACA program, and would have a chance to legalize if H.R.2820 passed.  Many others, especially in the landscape sector, have employees with TPS.  Finally, action on these bills clears the way for Judiciary Committee work on an agricultural workforce reform package. Negotiations continue on that front; AmericanHort is directly involved in this effort. 

In the Senate, Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced a Senate version of the Dream Act (S. 784) on March 26.  It has also garnered the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Murkowski (R-AK), Gardner (R-CO) and Cortez-Masto (D-NV). While a key supporter of the Dream Act, Senator Graham has said that Congress should address the crisis at our southern border before addressing legal status for the “dreamers.” He is drafting an immigration bill that would change asylum laws and expand detention of migrants to 100 days in response to the situation at the southern U.S. border.

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