The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is due to vote on two immigration bills that would provide a path to citizenship for millions living illegally in the United States, including farmworkers and younger immigrants known as "Dreamers."
The bills are an effort to take targeted steps forward while congressional leaders discuss President Joe Biden's comprehensive immigration plan, and initial procedural steps could come as early as Tuesday. Republicans are shifting their focus to attacking Biden over a new surge of arrivals at the US-Mexico border.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on Sunday the surge of migrant children arriving at the border was a "humanitarian crisis" aggravated by the "broken system" of restrictive immigration left behind by former President Donald Trump.
But Republicans have charged the influx is the result of Biden's reversal of some hardline Trump policies, with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy labeling it the "Biden border crisis" during a trip to the border on Monday.
The first immigration bill expected in the House this week would offer an eventual path to citizenship to "Dreamers," those immigrants living in the United States illegally after entering as children. It would also help recipients of temporary migration protections that allow immigrants from several disaster- or conflict-hit countries to live temporarily in the United States.
The measure, sponsored by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, could help make over 4.4 million people eligible for permanent US residence, according to the Migration Policy Institute. It passed the House once already, in 2019, with 237 votes; seven of those were Republicans.
The second bill, sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren, would put about a million undocumented farmworkers on a path to citizenship, a Democratic aide said. It has a Republican co-sponsor, Representative Dan Newhouse. Thirty-four Republicans voted for the measure when it last passed the House in 2019.
Neither bill was taken up in the Senate when it had a Republican majority. With Democrats now holding narrow control of that chamber, they hope to be able to attract some Republican support.
But Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the leading Republicans in past talks on immigration, said he was doubtful bipartisan progress could be made on legislation before the latest spike in border arrivals has been halted.
"I think it's gonna be really hard to get a bipartisan bill put together on anything that has a legalization component until you stop the flow," Graham told reporters on Monday evening.
Democrats last month formally introduced Biden's sweeping immigration overhaul in Congress, a measure that would provide a path to US citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. It faces long odds to passage as no Republicans have supported it publicly and it is unclear whether all Democrats back the approach.
"I think Speaker Pelosi has discovered that she doesn't have support for the comprehensive bill in the House," said the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, who also chairs that chamber's Judiciary Committee. "And I think that indicates where it is in the Senate as well."
But Durbin said that once the House has passed the two immigration measures this week, he and other senators will have to look for bipartisan consensus on a bill "with those two as the starting points."