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House passes clear path to citizenship for millions nation's 'Dreamers'

A separate bill also passed that would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant farmworkers and their families.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The nation's "Dreamers" achieved a major step forward Thursday, after the House of Representatives passed landmark legislation that would offer a clear pathway to citizenship.

An estimated 40,000 of these undocumented immigrants, brought to the United States as children, currently live in San Diego County.

To qualify for citizenship under this legislation, an immigrant must have been 18 years old or younger when they first entered the U.S., and can not be convicted of a violent crime.

"A big sigh of relief," said San Diegan Dulce Garcia, one of an estimated two and a half million "Dreamers" nationwide who could benefit from the legislation passed by the House by a vote of 228 to 197. 

"This is definitely a historical moment," she added. 

Garcia came to the U.S. In 1987 when she was only four and is now an immigration attorney as well as head of Border Angels, a local nonprofit that advocates for immigrants' rights.

"For years I've been worried about being placed in a detention center or being deported," she told News 8. 

If ultimately signed in to law, this legislation would provide a clear path to citizenship for "Dreamers," offering full lawful permanent resident status achieved by earning a degree from a college or university; completing at least two years of military service; or being employed for at least three years, provided they had employment authorization for 75% of the time they were employed.  

"Dreamers are doctors, nurses, lab technicians, contract tracers and job creators," said Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz from California.

Thursday's House vote comes as the Biden administration is dealing with a huge influx of migrants, currently seeking asylum at the border.

"They're voting on bills that not only do nothing to address the problem, it ignores the problem but will actually worsen the situation," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Garcia says this should not deter the passage of this legal path to citizenship for "Dreamers," calling the current situation at the border a humanitarian crisis.

"We don't have people rushing over our border," she said. "What we have is a need for more humane, compassionate immigration law."

Still, the future of this legislation in the Senate remains uncertain.

Garcia, however, is remaining optimistic.

"It's going to be a long road ahead of us, but I think it is doable," she added. 

Along with the legislation protecting "Dreamers," the House on Thursday also passed a separate bill that would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant farmworkers and their families.

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