Posted on October 29, 2021

Immigration Relief in Flux as Biden Unveils Reconciliation Framework

Caroline Simon and Suzanne Monyak, Roll Call, October 28, 2021

The White House tentatively set aside $100 billion for immigration changes in its framework for Democrats’ sprawling reconciliation package. However, the fate of those provisions remains up in the air, with an ultimate determination on their eligibility to be made by a Senate adviser.

The $1.75 trillion social spending framework, released Thursday morning, represents President Joe Biden’s attempt to strike a deal with Democrats and includes spending on clean energy investment and child care. That topline does not include the funds earmarked for immigration.

The White House framework notes the $100 billion investment aims to “reform our broken immigration system,” as well as reduce backlogs, expand legal representation and improve asylum and border processing. But the section includes an important caveat: These provisions must be “consistent with the Senate’s reconciliation rules.”

Democrats have so far faced an uphill battle to include sweeping immigration changes in the reconciliation bill, which advocates stress could be the party’s last chance for years to help undocumented immigrants before Democrats risk losing their congressional majorities in 2022.

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s adviser, has rejected Democrats’ last two attempts to include provisions that would put millions of undocumented immigrants on a path to permanent residency. She has reasoned the proposals do not comply with the Byrd rule, which limits the types of measures that can be included in a reconciliation bill.

Lawmakers are now preparing to pitch a more watered-down “Plan C,” which would give undocumented immigrants who entered the country before January 2011 work permits and deportation protections, but not a green card {snip}


House Democrats included provisions in a draft version of the reconciliation bill released Thursday that would allow immigrants who have been in the country since 2010, and who have shown “good moral character,” to apply to become permanent residents.

That option, the second one presented by Senate Democrats, was informally rejected by MacDonough last month. However, it could serve as a placeholder in the House bill, which would then allow Senate Democrats to substitute in the Plan C option if approved by the parliamentarian {snip}


The House text also included provisions to make more green cards available and to allow individuals to pay fees to be exempt from per-country caps, which would help legal immigrants, largely from India, who have waited years for a green card.


A potential absence of immigration relief in the reconciliation package would likely anger progressive House Democrats, who have ramped up calls to Senate leaders to override MacDonough’s immigration decisions.