The official who interprets the Senate rules said Thursday Democrats cannot include a provision in President Biden’s social spending plan that would offer work permits to unauthorized immigrants, once again thwarting Democrats’ efforts to reach a long-standing political goal without Republican votes, according to advice obtained from CBS News.
Senatorial MP Elizabeth MacDonough said a plan to allow 6.5 million immigrants living in the United States without legal status to apply for work permits and temporary deportation protections could not be passed through the process budget reconciliation, which allows bills to be approved by a simple majority.
As a parliamentarian, Macdonough is tasked with determining whether reconciliation proposals have a direct impact on the federal budget, a procedural requirement. She determined that the Democrats’ latest proposal was not primarily budget related.
“These are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we envisioned previously and outweigh the budgetary impact,” Macdonough wrote in his opinion on Thursday.
This is the third time MacDonough has spoken out against Democrats’ attempts to include an immigration assistance provision for some of the country’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the sweeping social spending program that lawmakers Democrats hope to adopt in the coming weeks.
Much to the dismay of progressive activists, the rejected proposal would not have put the roughly 11 million immigrants living in the United States without permission on the path to permanent status and citizenship – a policy Democrats and Mr Biden have pursued. recommended.
But the plan to offer work authorization and deportation protections to a large part of the undocumented population represented the clearest opportunity for Democrats to pass some form of immigration relief before their slim majority in Congress would be threatened by the 2022 midterm elections.
For weeks, progressive lawmakers and activists urged senators to ignore the parliamentarian – and those calls escalated on Thursday. But it’s unclear whether the necessary number of Democratic senators would vote to rescind his advice.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez, Catherine Cortez Masto, Ben Ray LujÃ¡n and Alex Padilla criticized the parliamentarian’s decision but did not pledge to overturn it. .
“We strongly disagree with the parliamentary senator’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue all means to achieve a path to citizenship under the Build Back Better law,” senators said.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, urged Democratic lawmakers to ignore the parliamentarian’s views and offer undocumented migrants a path to U.S. citizenship through the spending program.
“Every Democrat promised citizenship. They promised green cards and now they have the power in the House and they have the power in the Senate. And yes, it’s by a small margin, but they have the power,” he said. declared Salas, a former undocumented migrant. immigrant, told CBS News. “They choose not to use their political power on our behalf.”
Earlier this fall, the parliamentarian spoke out against Democratic proposals that would have made undocumented immigrants eligible to become permanent residents, saying the plans were not primarily budget related.
According to the latest plan, some immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2011 would be eligible for parole, an immigration benefit that allows non-citizens to live and work legally in the country. Applicants for the temporary program, which would expire in 2031, could be rejected if they did not pass background checks.
While parole does not provide a direct route to permanent U.S. status, it could allow an estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants to apply for green cards if their family members, immediate U.S. citizens, are willing to sponsor them. , according to a congress estimate.
In his advice Thursday, MacDonough concluded that the latest plan is “not significantly different in effect from the previous proposals we have considered.” She said the plan would provide undocumented immigrants with work authorization, travel documents and other benefits. Some would also be allowed to apply for a green card after being granted parole, MacDonough noted.
The plan, she said, would expand the parole program, which is designed to be granted on a limited basis on a case-by-case basis.
Other immigration provisions in the Build Back Better plan passed by House Democrats include an effort to recirculate nearly 400,000 green cards that have not been used in the past three decades and put them to use. the disposition of immigrants queuing. The plan would reduce the massive backlog of green card applications.
Another provision would exempt eligible immigrants to the United States from annual immigrant visa caps and allow them to obtain a green card if their applications have been approved for two years.