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Immigrants and their allies celebrate House passage of legalization bills

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“Today’s passage of the Dream & Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House are victories made possible by our undocumented, youth-led movement and a Black-led, multi-racial political coalition that delivered victories in the House, Senate and White House in November,” United We Dream’s Greisa Martinez Rosas said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “This moment brings us closer to winning permanent protections for all 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S. and is just the beginning of what our movement will accomplish.”

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UWD member Heyleng Castro said in that statement that “this bill would mean I could continue my college education and one day have the opportunity to walk across the stage at graduation, something which has been jeopardized because of my immigration status. For me and millions of other immigrant young people, a pathway to citizenship means safety, opportunity and hope.” In a video shared by the organization, immigrants and their allies cheered the moment the House vote reached the magic number of 218.

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But young immigrants also expressed concern over challenges the bill faces in the Senate due to the Jim Crow-era filibuster and Republican blockading

 “As someone with #DACA that works with students who are too young to qualify for the program and who have worked with undocumented moms & dads for years, today feels heavy,” said DACA recipient Reyna Montoya. “HR6 is a huge step in the right direction, yet I find myself once again holding my breath. I hold my breath because I know it is in the Senate hands to either make this a reality or crash this opportunity for so many of us. We can’t forget this legislation impacts real people. Today we celebrate, tomorrow focus on ensuring this gets through the finish line.”

In a statement, United Farm Workers (UFW) and the UFW Foundation celebrated the passage of both the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, as “emancipating” farmworkers, DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders. The farmworkers bill was “the result of months of intense negotiations between lawmakers from both parties, the United Farm Workers, UFW Foundation, Farmworker Justice and most of the nation’s major grower associations.”

“Today’s votes are the direct result of decades of determination by farm workers and undocumented youth fighting for their right to keep their homes in the United States,” UFW Foundation executive director Diana Tellefson Torres said. “This is an opportunity for the nation to acknowledge that farm workers have always been essential, putting food on the tables of Americans even during a pandemic. This is the year to get it done.”

But advocates also urged important bill revisions as they continue to fight to protect these communities. “The Dream and Promise Act is a major step toward a legislative fix for millions of immigrants,” tweeted the American Immigration Council. “But the most recent version includes troubling provisions that will exclude people who have had minor brushes with a discriminatory criminal justice system.” Legislators including New York Rep. Mondaire Jones said that “[w]e need a bill that goes further, that forgives people who make mistakes.” Illinois Rep. Chuy García made a similar call “to eliminate racially-motivated barriers to legalization.”

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UFW and the UFW Foundation noted that unlike the previous session of Congress, both bills are passing under a supportive administration, with President Joe Biden on Thursday issuing two statements in support of the bills.

“The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 is a critical first step in reforming our immigration system and will provide much needed relief to TPS holders and Dreamers, young people who came here as children and know no other country,” he said. “I support this bill, and commend the House of Representatives for passing this important legislation.” In the second statement, the president said, “[f]armworkers are vital to the wellbeing of our country and our economy.”

“For generations, America’s farmworkers—many of whom are undocumented—have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong,” he continued. “This has been even more clear and crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table.

But one of the best moments from Thursday, aside from bill passage, were floor remarks by El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar regarding the legislation bringing dignity, respect, and permanent protections to farmworkers and their families. “I have one thing to say, to those who would oppose legislation for this population, even though they benefit from the labor of this population: no tienen vergüenza,” she said. “Shame.”

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