NNIRR’s Statement on the Dream & Promise and the Farm Workforce Modernization Acts

For 35 years, NNIRR has been an organization committed to the human rights and dignity of all migrants and refugees. We have challenged punitive policies that have led to the criminalization of migrants and the militarization and terrorization of communities in the border region, and have uplifted the important work of grassroots organizations across the country in their organizing for protections, rights and justice. As an organization rooted in the intersectional struggles of the experiences of migrants and refugees, we cannot support the two bills that passed the House on March 18, 2021 as they are currently written, but will rather push the Senate to remove the concerning language from the final bills.

The passage of the American Dream and Promise Act (HR6) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 1063) in the House of Representatives attempt to resolve a longstanding debt to dreamers, farmworkers, and TPS holders. While these legislative bills begin to address long-standing challenges, they are still far from fulfilling the Biden administration’s commitment to modernize and re-imagine our immigration system —a promise made by this administration to recognize the essential work of immigrants in the United States.

The Dream and Promise Act’s broad criminal bars and secondary review processes mirror the deep-rooted racial bias of the criminal justice system, effectively blocking youth of color, who have been targeted by racist policing, from the possibility of ever regularizing their status. For those that would qualify under this program, the proposed ten-year conditional status would subject applicants to years of negotiating a permanent residency through administrative procedures, appeals of denial, and even removal orders. This bill assumes the continued political will of the executive, congressional and judicial branches of government beyond the current administration’s time in office. Dreamers and TPS holders should be regularized unconditionally and expeditiously. They have the right to remain in this country, where they belong.

Similarly, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act recognizes that our food and agricultural systems fundamentally depend on migrant workers. However, the bill mandates a long and complicated path to legalization, expands exploitative guest worker programs, and imposes salary freezes, among many other provisions that perpetuate labor injustices. Migrant farmworkers are one of the most exploited sectors of our workforce. For decades, the Agrobusiness industry has gone unregulated, forcing workers, documented and undocumented, to accept low-wages and exploitative working conditions that deter them from accessing healthcare, food security, and safe housing. These administrative barriers, in the form of complex procedures or restrictive interpretations, and the lack of labor oversight, undermine the purpose of this legislation.

Dreamers, TPS holders, and farmworkers continue to be on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic without basic labor or health protections. They have waited many decades to regularize their status, working in the shadows with no social safety nets. NNIRR urges congressional and community leadership to oppose provisions and legislation that would exclude thousands, if not millions, of Black, Latino, and Asian youth as well as elderly farmworkers, from gaining timely access to residency and citizenship.

NNIRR stands with Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers and community organizers who have worked tirelessly for legislative relief for migrant communities. This is the time to push further for broad and inclusive legislation that regularizes the status and ensures the full integration of all undocumented migrants and refugees. It has been almost 35 years since the last window for regularization and we can’t wait another year to bring meaningful relief from fear of deportation.