Democrats backed by White House looking at alternative ways to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation
Hopes of thousands of Indians stuck in decades long green card backlog of getting permanent residency by paying a ‘super fee’ have been dashed for now with the Senate parliamentarian ruling against the move.
Democrats’ plan to provide 8 million green cards as part of their $3.5 trillion spending bill cannot be used to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Sunday.
The Democratic plan doesn’t meet the strict rules on what can be in the spending bill, calling the plan “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy,” the non-partisan Senate refere ruled dealing a significant blow to Democrats’ immigration reform chances.
“The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” she wrote in the ruling as reported by The Hill.
“Changing the law to clear the way to LPR status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” MacDonough added referring to the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to avoid the Senate filibuster.
Providing legal status through reconciliation would also lead to “other, life-changing federal, state and societal benefits” that can’t be meaningfully reflected in the budget, she ruled.
It “would give these persons freedom to work, freedom to travel, freedom to live openly in our society in any state in the nation, and to reunite with their families and it would make them eligible, in time, to apply for citizenship — things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent,” MacDonough said.
Democrats pitched MacDonough earlier this month on their plan to use the $3.5 trillion spending bill to provide 8 million green cards for four groups of immigrants: “Dreamers,” temporary protected status (TPS) holders, agricultural workers and essential workers.
Democratic leaders had pledged that if the Senate referee initially rejected their efforts, they could keep trying to sway her until the $3.5 trillion spending bill was on the Senate floor, the Hill noted.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on Sunday night said Democrats would take an alternative proposal to MacDonough.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” Schumer said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Sen. Alex Padilla, who oversees the committee’s immigration sub panel, added that the “fight for immigration reform will continue.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, praised MacDonough’s decision and argued that legal status shouldn’t be provided without broader immigration reforms.
“The Parliamentarian’s guidance reinforces long held traditions of the Senate that major policy changes should be done collaboratively and not through the reconciliation process,” he was cited as stating by the Hill.
“Our economy depends more than ever on immigrants,” Schumer said, according to Politico. “Despite putting their lives on the line during the pandemic and paying their fair share of taxes, they remain locked out of the federal assistance that served as a lifeline for so many families.”
A White House spokesperson cited by Politico reiterated that President Joe Biden “supports efforts by Congress to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and is grateful to Congressional leadership for all of the work they are doing to make this a reality. “
Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi recently led 40 members of Congress in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer on the importance of addressing the employment-based green card backlog in the Build Back Better Act.
The passage of the Act would provide significant relief to the more than 1.2 million individuals stuck in the employment-based green card backlog, most of whom are from India and Asia, Krishnamoorthi said said after the provision was included in the bill by the House Judiciary Committee.
Read: Indians may soon get green cards by paying a super-fee (September 13, 2021)
“For too long, we have allowed high-skilled workers to languish in the backlog, unable to fully establish themselves as Americans and contribute to our long-term economic prosperity,” he added
As passed by the House Judiciary Committee, the legislation would recapture family-sponsored and employment-based green cards unused since 1992, allow individuals with approved immigrant petitions to file for adjustment of status early upon payment of a fee, and exempt family-sponsored and employment-based applicants from numerical limits on visas for an additional fee.