Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval

Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval
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Three major immigration bills cleared the House Judiciary Committee this week, flying under the radar amid increasing political discord in Washington.

The Dream Act and American Promise Act passed separately on Wednesday and the Venezuela TPS Act cleared the panel Thursday, in what amounted to the biggest legislative success for immigration activists in years.

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The Dream Act would grant a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, commonly known as “Dreamers,” who arrived in the United States as minors. The Promise Act would provide permanent immigration benefits to certain longtime holders of programs like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure.

Combined, the bills could grant permanent residency with a path to citizenship to nearly 2.1 million people.

The committee also cleared the Venezuela TPS Act, sponsored by Florida Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (R) and Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoHillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash Lawmakers voice skepticism over Facebook's deepfake ban Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data MORE (D), which would grant TPS status to Venezuelans in the United States.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee erupted in applause when the Dream and Promise acts passed Wednesday night.

“I think it should be a big part of the debate, because it is so significant for 2.1 million people. I have to admit, I got emotional [Wednesday] night when we passed it,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse to investigate Trump 'Remain in Mexico' policy Democrats don't expect to do 2020 budget House to vote Thursday on war powers resolution after Iran attacks MORE (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

With a Democratic majority in the House, the bills are expected to easily pass the chamber, but they are unlikely to move forward in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“It's going to get a vote on the floor in early June. So we serve it over to the Senate and put the pressure to do the right thing,” said Soto.

A Democratic leadership aide said the bills are “on track for June passage” in the House.

It's unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Democrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (R-Ky.) will allow a vote on House-passed immigration bills.

“Well, you know, Mitch McConnell, unfortunately likes to call himself the Grim Reaper. He presides over the graveyard of all good things that help American people,” said Jayapal. “So it's up to Mitch McConnell, whether he's up to the challenge of leadership or whether he just wants to preside over death.”

Under TPS, foreign nationals of countries undergoing natural or man-made crises are allowed to live and work in the United States as long as the federal government determines a return to their home country would be a risk.

TPS status is generally granted by the secretary of Homeland Security, but the Trump administration has demurred on declaring TPS for Venezuelans in the United States, despite being vocal about the gravity of the South American country's situation.

Venezuelan asylum applications to the United States first spiked in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, and the Venezuelan American National Bar Association estimates there are around 150,000 TPS-eligible Venezuelans in the United States.