Nearly half of all House Democrats on Monday called on their Senate colleagues to augment the immigration protections in the House-passed Build Back Better (BBB) Act before the upper chamber votes on it.
In a letter led by Democratic Reps. Jesús García (Ill.), Lou Correa (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), the members urged Senate leaders to reinstate a pathway to citizenship in the Senate version of President Biden’s signature social spending and climate bill.
“The House version of the BBB Act limits relief for certain undocumented individuals to a five-year parole status, yet another form of temporary reprieve. We now write to urge you and the rest of our colleagues in the Senate to reinstate a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS [temporary protected status] holders, farm workers, and essential workers in the Senate’s version of the reconciliation bill,” wrote the lawmakers.
García, Correa and Espaillat were dubbed “the three amigos” for their push to include a pathway to citizenship in the House version of the nearly $2 trillion spending bill.
Their entreaties were rebuffed, despite no Democrats coming out publicly against stronger immigration protections in the bill.
Ultimately, the House-passed version included a parole option, which would grant 6.5 million foreign nationals a temporary parole status that would grant them five-year work and travel permits but not permanent residency, the first path toward citizenship.
“Though this bill delivers urgently needed relief to undocumented immigrants, it falls short of the pathway to citizenship that I’ve been fighting for and that immigrants deserve,” said García.
“It means families separated for decades can finally be reunited, workers can speak out against abuses without fear of retaliation, and immigrants can wake up every morning with some peace of mind,” he added.
While the House-passed bill would enact the broadest immigration benefits in 35 years, it falls short of the legalization promises given by Democrats, including Biden, on the campaign trail.
The three amigos and their allies in the Senate — Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) — called for broader reform as the BBB Act’s content was being negotiated.
The Senate parliamentarian rebuffed two immigration plans that included permanent residency for millions — and has yet to review the House-passed parole plan.
To pass the BBB Act without GOP Senate support, Democrats are using the reconciliation process, which requires a bill to comply with strict rules, and each chamber’s parliamentarian is tasked with giving advisory opinions on a bill’s compliance with said rules.
Grassroots immigrant advocates, who called on Democrats to support the three amigos, laid out the case for the Senate to push forward on legal permanent residency despite the parliamentarian’s objections.
Now, nearly half of the House Democratic Caucus is pushing Senate leaders in the same direction, based on Democrats’ campaign promises to immigrant communities to legislate a path to citizenship.
“Whether we keep our promise or not is a question of political will. We do understand that the Senate Parliamentarian has issued a memorandum dismissing – despite evidence to the contrary – the budgetary impact of providing a pathway to citizenship. But the role of the Parliamentarian is an advisory one, and the Parliamentarian’s opinion is not binding,” wrote the members.
The letter signed by 91 members, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), follows the advice of grassroots immigrant rights groups and legal scholars, who have for weeks advised congressional Democrats to disregard the parliamentarian’s opinion on the matter.
“As this bill heads to the Senate, we must fight to ensure that we do not squander this once-in-a-generation opportunity. The Senate must establish a pathway to citizenship and finally provide Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers with the stability and equal recognition they deserve,” said Ocasio-Cortez.