House Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday sought to recapture visas that would be lost due to coronavirus delays and Trump administration policies as it pushed forward the broader Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

The bill provides $52.81 billion in funding for the department and its agencies, including those that patrol the border.

But Tuesday’s markup added several provisions to the bill that would expand the number of visas offered to temporary workers while working to reverse the impact of various policies from former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE.

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Lawmakers voted to include an amendment from Rep. Grace MengGrace MengAfghanistan evacuation flights resume after pause House Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-N.Y.) that would allow unused visas from fiscals years 2020 and 2021 to remain available into next year.

Doing so will help the 55,000 winners of the diversity visa lottery, many who were unable to be fully processed as COVID shuttered many State Department consulates and vastly limited their capacity.

The amendment also allows unused family-based and employment based visas to continue to be available. Typically any family-based visas that aren’t used are then added to the employment-based cap for the following year -- a feature that can balloon employment-based opportunities. 

The move follows alarm from advocates that the State Department’s slow processing of visas during COVID was helping carry on Trump administration goals to limit family-based migration. 

Another adopted amendment from Meng would also allow for visas to those impacted by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.

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“Just passed my amendment in committee to allow thousands of expired visas to be made available to those who were denied or refused admission bc of previous Muslim ban. It’s time for US to uphold promise we made and right the wrongs created by discriminatory ban,” Meng wrote on twitter after the amendment was adopted.

The committee also adopted an amendment from Rep. Chellie PingreeRochelle (Chellie) PingreeMaine businesses clamor for foreign workers to meet demand Labor shortages slam into rebounding tourism in Maine Congress can make progress on fighting emissions with Zero Food Waste Act MORE (D-Maine) that would allow for an additional 64,716 H-2B visas, which allow workers to come to the U.S. for seasonal jobs -- something Pingree said was necessary in her state given a busty summer tourist season that where workers cannot be supplied by the local economy alone.

A similar amendment from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) would allow migrant farmworkers to use the H-2A temporary worker visa next year regardless of whether their work is seasonal.

Lawmakers did not include an amendment from Rep. Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannHouse Democrats include immigration priorities as they forward DHS funding bill The Memo: Biden feels the heat from all sides on immigration Biden official defends Trump-era immigration policy MORE (R-Tenn.) that would have striked a portion of that bill that recalls some prior unallocated funding for Trump’s border wall.