House Democrats on Thursday hailed the expected passage of two bills that would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a sea change in the nation’s stance on immigration.
“We say to the world we are making a very big difference in how we value the diversity of America,” she said at her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol.
She was joined by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrod Nadler, New York Democrat, who said the bills “closed the book” on tougher immigration policies of the Trump administration.
“Today we begin a new chapter,” Mr. Nadler said.
The bills would grant quick legal status and a path to naturalization to farmworkers and another bill to do the same for young adult “Dreamers” and other migrants in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program.
The vote comes amid a surge of illegal immigrants trying to enter the U.S., which the Biden administration and congressional Democrats resist calling a crisis at the border.
Mrs. Pelosi did not take questions from reporters.
One of the bills to legalize Dreamers and TPS holders could apply to as many as 4.4 million people, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Many of those are in the country under a temporary deportation amnesty and are holding jobs on temporary work permits.
The other bill would legalize farm workers, who could total another 1.2 million.
Neither of the measures includes new enforcement or border-security measures.
Versions of both bills passed the House in the last Congress, garnering some Republican support. But the legislation never saw action in the Senate, which was run by Republicans at the time.
The fate of the bills in the Senate remains precarious. Even though Democrats now control the Senate, they are far from a filibuster-proof majority. Republicans who worked with Democrats on immigration bills in the past say the current border situation has made bipartisanship more difficult.
About half of the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants might be eligible under one or the other of the bills.