The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a measure that would allow so-called 'Dreamers,' who came to the United States illegally as children, a path to citizenship. Many have spent most of their lives in the United States and have been educated in U.S. schools.
The Dreamers bill also would help a separate group of immigrants, who came from countries that were devastated by civil wars and natural disasters, and had qualified for temporary protections in the United States.
A second measure that passed would shield about 1 million immigrant farm workers from deportation, with the eventual goal of also granting them citizenship.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"We are making a very big difference in how we respect the beautiful diversity of America."
The legislation is the latest move by Democrats to try and reverse former President Donald Trump's hardline policies.
But it also coincides with Democratic President Joe Biden's efforts to contain the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of whom are fleeing dangerous conditions in Central America.
On the house floor Thursday, Minority Leader McCarthy, a Republican, tried to change the subject away from 'Dreamers' and to the surge of migrants at the border.
"Mr. Speaker, the responsibility of this border crisis rests squarely on the shoulders of President Biden."
Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas, hit back, accusing McCarthy of using her district as a "prop" for political purposes when he visited a migrant facility earlier this week.
"We are here today, my colleagues, to talk about our 'Dreamers' -- the precious resource that we have in our country. But of course, unfortunately what we are hearing is as much fear mongering as by our Republican colleagues about immigrants."
The southwest border situation hardened Republican opposition to helping Dreamers: around 1.8 million young immigrants, many of whom made a perilous journey as children to escape gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
But the House proposals face an uphill battle in the Senate.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the bills would exacerbate problems at the border, giving them a slim chance of survival in the Senate, where a supermajority of at least 60 of 100 members are needed for most legislation to advance.