WASHINGTON – The number of migrants crossing the southwestern border is on pace for the highest level in 20 years. Republicans call it the "Biden border crisis". Up until now, the White House has been calling it a "challenge" and avoiding the word "crisis".
With migrants pouring across the southern border and the number of migrant children coming into the country on pace to set a record, lawmakers are rushing to address at least part of the immigration problem with legislation.
In a near party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would give legal status to around two million "Dreamers" brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The bill also extends to hundreds of thousands of people let into the country for humanitarian reasons.
In another measure, the House also voted to give similar protections to one million farmworkers in the U.S. illegally.
While there is some bipartisan support for both bills, they face an uphill battle in the Senate.
For more than a decade, both sides of Capitol Hill have supported protection for the Dreamers. It's the disagreement over other immigration issues, however, that may once again block their pathway to citizenship.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who for years has joined Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in sponsoring the Dream Act, now seems hesitant to move it across the finish line.
"Biden has lost control of the U.S.-Mexican border. Until he regains control and implements policies that work, it's going to be very hard to do the Dreamers or anybody else," said Graham at a press conference this week. "Legalizing anybody under these circumstances will lead to even more immigration."
Thank you all of my colleagues who joined me today in demanding #DIGNITY!
We must secure our border and provide practical, common-sense solutions for our immigrant community. pic.twitter.com/8k9xVrAwRp
— Rep. María Elvira Salazar (@RepMariaSalazar) March 17, 2021
"I am offering dignity," Salazar told ABC News. "What I'm offering is the art of the possible. What I'm offering is to bring those people out of the shadows, the ones with TPS, everyone who's been here for more than 5 years and does not have a criminal record. You bring them out of the shadows and you give them dignity so they can continue to working and raising their American children and paying American taxes. If they want to become Americans, after 10 years they can do so."
Thursday, House Democrats argued especially in the pandemic, Dreamers and farmers need protection now.
"Dreamers are doctors, nurses, lab technicians, contract tracers, and job creators," said Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA). "Farmworkers are getting infected and dying from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than the general public. They are literally dying to feed you."
Both bills passed the House Thursday with bipartisan support, but as the situation escalates at the border, it's unclear if they'll get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate and be signed into law.
This photo was taken 6 days ago on private land at the border. This is what a crisis looks like. pic.twitter.com/rO7bHiresL
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) March 19, 2021
The White House has labeled the border surge as a "challenge" and is steadfastly refusing to call it a crisis, but in what seems to be a slip-up, Press Secretary Jen Psaki used that exact word Thursday.
"There have been expectations set outside of, unrelated to, any vaccine doses or requests for them, that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border and there have been requests, unrelated, that they, for doses of these vaccines," said Psaki.
For years Congress has been unable to come up with a solution for illegal immigration and with Democrats and Republicans standing by their positions, it doesn't appear they'll be able to this time around either.