On March 18, the U.S. House passed two immigration bills, the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603). If passed by the U.S. Senate, the American Dream and Promise Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for over 4 million Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would streamline the H-2A farmworker visa process for both employers and applicants in addition to providing a pathway to permanent residency for longtime farmworkers. NACo sent letters to congressional leadership on both bills in support of their passage.
County governments are important stakeholders in immigration legislation given their responsibility for the health and safety of all residents. Additionally, counties have an interest in strengthening local economies by ensuring that our employers and industries of all types can hire and retain a qualified and legal workforce that meets our needs.
As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn it is vital that counties have all of the resources at their disposal to aid our recovery as a nation. Both DACA and TPS recipients have been able to fill gaps in local industries, performing essential work and serving in frontline roles during the COVID-19. Similarly, farmworkers have been crucial to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on our nation’s food system. The complex and burdensome H-2A visa process often limits counties’ abilities to preserve, expand and improve on the resources and processes aimed at bolstering local economies. Both of these bills would address some of the shortfalls presented by our current immigration system.
Counties support comprehensive immigration reform that allows immigrants to contribute to the local workforce, provides clarity at the local level, and doesn’t create new demand or administrative costs on local governments. NACo will continue to monitor developments around immigration reform and advocate for county priorities in future legislation.