The latest version of the House’s $1.75 trillion social spending package includes immigration provisions that would give up to 10 years of work authorization for undocumented people living in the U.S. — an effort to comply with Senate rules that have killed two previous plans.
The Build Back Better package released by the House on Wednesday does not provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people already living in the U.S.
It instead relies on a process known as parole to waive immigration requirements for five years for those who have been living in the U.S. prior to 2011. Once approved, beneficiaries could apply for a five-year extension, allowing them to stay in the country until the end of 2031.
It’s a bid to appeal to the Senate parliamentarian, who twice has batted down more expansive immigration proposals, arguing they did not meet the budgetary rules that allow the measure to get around a GOP filibuster.
“It’s our best option for getting past the parliamentarian,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse passes bill to expedite financial disclosures from judges Unrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs MORE (D-N.Y.) said.
But it leaves open the question of whether House Democrats will be able to wrangle the backing of those who have lobbied for both stronger and weaker immigration provisions.
According to a source familiar with the conversation, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.) quelled any notion that the immigration language would go beyond what the Rules Committee released Wednesday.
That would quash any attempt to insert a change of registry date provision — providing a sort of statute of limitations for those who entered the U.S.
It would also block any more ambitious immigration proposals, an unnerving concept to those who argue the House is negotiating against itself by trying to anticipate what might get blocked in the Senate.
“The responsibility for what happens next is to rest with the Senate. We should not be doing all the lifting, throwing things out, eliminating things on a perceived problem in the Senate or on a perceived risk adverse situation here,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
Also at issue is the bill’s silence on whether those who receive parole should also be able to access other social services — nixing a provision that would have expressly blocked parolees from receiving such services.
“There are a lot of moderate Democrats that have a problem. They're OK to give people work permits. They're OK to have people move around, but they have a problem with benefits. I personally, I think that if you ask my constituents ... do you want to give the illegals benefits, they're going to say no,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), another CHC member, told The Hill.
Grijalva said the Republican's victory in the Virginia governor’s race may also have put people on alert.
“I understand that some people are concerned about it and feel that their concerns now get magnified after Virginia. They think that this is the bellwether of all times,” he said.
“We have to look at it two ways, do you want to not do anything about [immigration]? I don't think we can get away with that either.”
Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.), one of three lawmakers to meet with Pelosi about the bill Wednesday shortly before the text was released, said the broader provisions in the bill should be enough to secure backing for it regardless of any immigration concerns.
“We know that there's a concern among members who, you know, represent Trump districts or a swing district. So that's understandable,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, this is a huge bill that affects people in so many ways. When you consider all of that, immigration reform is such a tiny piece of it. That, I think, that will be a perspective that hopefully will prevail.”
But over in the Senate, some leaders seemingly encouraged the House to be more aggressive.
“Last week we were encouraged when the House included provisions to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. And today, we strongly urge Senate and House leadership to act boldly and continue fighting for the broadest legal protections possible to fully unleash the economic might of the undocumented community,” Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Spending bill faces Senate scramble Republicans raise concerns over Biden's nominee for ambassador to Germany MORE (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoConservative group targeting Kelly, Hassan, Cortez Masto in multi-million-dollar ad blitz 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (D-Nev.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Alex PadillaAlex Padilla91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
“That’s the only way we can fully Build Back Better and transform the lives of millions of hardworking people and their families.”
The bill does include visa recapture, preserving some 222,000 unused family-based visas and roughly 157,000 employment-based visas that would otherwise lapse.
The parole provisions, even without a pathway to citizenship, would still provide temporary status, much like that given to "Dreamers" under President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPolitics must accept the reality of multiracial America and disavow racial backlash To empower parents, reinvent schools Senate race in Ohio poses crucial test for Democrats MORE. Some would likely be able to secure other pathways to citizenship or residency during the 10-year period outlined in the bill.
Some advocacy groups cheered the legislation’s immigration provisions even though they are less ambitious than earlier Senate proposals.
“Immigration relief that provides work permits and deportation protections would transform the lives of millions of families who have lived, worked and contributed to this country for at least a decade. It would allow people who have been living in this country for an average of 20 years basic freedoms, like the ability to work, the security to remain together with their families, and the opportunity to visit loved ones abroad,” Todd Schulte, president of Fwd.Us, said in a statement.
“While short of the explicit pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants which we know is needed and we will continue to fight to achieve, this would be the most significant immigration measure passed by Congress in decades.”
Rafael Bernal contributed.