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House passes legislation slated to overhaul the immigration system, would impact farmworkers, dreamers in Kern County

U.S. House of Representatives congress
Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 12:19:12-04

(KERO) — The House of Representatives this week passed two pieces of legislation aimed at overhauling the country’s immigration system, something that would impact farmworkers and dreamers in Kern County.

One bill largely has to do with dreamers, that’s the American Dream and Promise act. The other, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, aims to give undocumented farmworkers a lawful status and better working conditions.

“It would provide undocumented farmworkers a work permit so that they’re able to continue working in agriculture without that fear that so many of them live with,” said Leydy Rangel, national communications manager for the UFW Foundation.

That fear, according to the United Farm Workers Foundation, is deportation. The foundation says there are 2.4 million farmworkers in the U.S. and it’s estimated that roughly half of them are undocumented. If signed into law, the farm workforce modernization act would enable qualifying undocumented farmworkers to apply for a work permit.

“They would have to have worked at least 180 days in total in the last two years prior to the bill being introduced on March 8, 2021,” said Rangel.

Leydy Rangel, with the UFW Foundation, says those permits will be valid between 4 and 8 years depending on a worker’s experience. After that, workers will be able to apply for legal permanent residency and possibly citizenship if that’s what they choose to do.

The other immigration-related bill passed by the House this week is the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, also known as dreamers.

“It would protect an estimated 2.5 million immigrants who would then be able to permanently be protected from deportation under this bill,” said Rangel.

The bill would allow deferred action of childhood arrivals, or DACA, recipients, and other unauthorized immigrants under 18, the opportunity to apply for a 10-year conditional permanent residency.

According to the Associated Press, to attain legal permanent residence or a green card, a person would have to obtain a higher education degree, serve in the military, or be employed for at least three years.

“This is not going to fix the problem at the border, it’s only going to encourage more illegal crossings with the hope of these migrants being granted amnesty," said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Florida.

The bills met opposition from most House GOP members. But some, like local representative David Valadao, voted in favor of the bills.

“They would be able to have that stable life in America which is the only home that many of them know,” said Rangel.

These two bills have not been signed into law, they’ve only been passed by the House, and will now need to be negotiated and passed by the Senate in order for the bill to land on president Biden's desk.

The bills have faced stiff opposition from Republicans in the House because they didn’t include measures to increase security at the southern border. The Senate is a 50/50 party split, which means Republicans would need a Democrat to defect in order to have more negotiating power.