HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed two immigration bills that give farmworkers and “Dreamers” a path to citizenship. However, experts say getting the Senate to pass the bills will not be easy.
“These bills would provide farmworkers, ‘Dreamers,’ TPS, and DED recipients with a pathway to citizenship,” said Leydy Rangel, the national communications manager for the United Farmworkers Foundation headquartered in California.
The American Dream and Promise Act is designed for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act targets undocumented agriculture laborers.
“All farmworkers will get a blue card after they can show that they’ve worked in agriculture for 180 days in the last two previous years,” said Valdez. “The blue card, the green card, and then citizenship in a total of eight years,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox, the executive director of farmworkers activist group La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE.
A “blue card” is a work permit for farmworkers. They must continue working in agriculture for a total of eight years to qualify for permanent residency.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security would have to administer that work permit called the certified agricultural worker status that is created by the bill,” Rangel said.
If the Senate passes the bill, and they obtain a blue card, it protects their families from deportation as well. However, to qualify, farmworkers need to provide proof of employment, and some farmworkers are paid in cash.
“What the farmworkers have to do is find those receipts that they’ve gotten with their name, what they earned, and where they were working,” said Valdez.
Local immigration attorney Margie Villalobos said it will be easier for DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” to qualify for permanent residency under the bill.
“And people who have DACA that’ll be easy because when they apply for DACA they actually get a work permit,” said Villalobos.
DACA recipients, those brought illegally to the U.S. as children, may qualify for permanent citizenship if they have completed higher education, obtained a GED, or served in the military, and have not be convicted of any serious crime.
Though these bills could mean long-sought relief and a real opportunity for financial growth, experts say that it is not time to celebrate yet.
“They have to realize that we have a lot of work because in the Senate, we need 10 republican votes and that is very, very difficult,” Valdez said.
Villalobos recommends for DACA recipients and undocumented farmworkers to seek legal advice before applying for residency if these bills are passed.