Featured Issue: Immigration Reforms through Budget Reconciliation

On December 16, 2021, the Senate Parliamentarian issued an advisory opinion concluding that “Plan C” – a proposal submitted by Senate Democrats to provide parole to 6.5 million individuals who are undocumented – would likely not survive the Senate’s “Byrd Bath” process. The opinion makes it significantly harder for these provisions to be included in the Build Back Better Act (“BBBA”), a large bill that encompasses a wide-range of issues beyond immigration. A few days later, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) stated that he would not support the BBBA in its current form. Because of the close margins within the Senate, Senator Manchin’s support is required for the BBBA to pass the Senate. Currently, the Senate is focusing on the voting rights act, but Senate Democrats continue to push for a version of the BBBA that Senator Manchin will support. We’ll likely see more developments over the next two months. AILA is advocating for the inclusion of immigration-related provisions in the legislation.

The BBBA also includes many of the legal immigration provisions AILA has been fighting for that help family, employment, and DV visa backlogs (see our summary of those provisions in the original House bill). It would also impose new fees on several applications and petitions to offset the cost of the bill. These provisions were not reviewed by the parliamentarian.

AILA has also pushed for provisions that would expand access to legal representation and immigration court reforms. Notably, AILA has also underscored for Congress the importance of opposing anti-immigrant amendments, including those that would narrow access to the proposed parole provision, create barriers to accessing visa numbers, and undermine access to asylum or increase detention of migrants at the southern border.

A new version of the BBBA is expected to be voted on in February during a process called vote-a-rama, where the Senate considers an unlimited number of amendments to the bill. Regardless of the immigration provisions that are included in the BBBA at the time of vote-a-rama, there will be anti-immigrant amendments introduced during this process. It is critical this month that AILA members and advocates keep the pressure on Congress to enact immigration reforms as part of the budget reconciliation bill, and ensure that anti-immigrant amendments do not get incorporated in the final bill. AILA will continue to monitor this process closely.

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Legislation Updates

Members of Congress Statements

  • The Senate is still working on the BBBA. Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) told reporters that the momentum is still there.
    • “We're working to move as quickly as possible on these two issues: Voting (rights) and the issue of Build Back Better.” [POLITICO, January 6, 2022]
  • Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) ended the current version of the BBBA with his statement on Fox News.
    • “This is a no on this legislation. I have tried everything I know to do. And the President has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had and, you know, the thing that we should all be directing our attention towards the variant, a Covid that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways, it's affecting our lives again." [CNN, December 19, 2021]
  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters he was "disappointed" with the parlimentarian’s ruling and that Democrats are "considering what options remain." [NPR, December 16, 2021]
  • Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) remains optimistic for immigration reform through reconciliation. [Sacramento Bee, October 8, 2021]
    • “I haven’t given up on the reconciliation opportunity at all. . .We’re going to keep fighting. I know the parliamentarian said ‘no’ to an initial proposal that we had in front of her, but there’s still a number of different options that I think fit the criteria for budget consideration.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is deeply disappointed but ready to keep fighting with alternatives. [Washington Post, September 19, 2021]
  • Durbin, Padilla Statement on Parliamentarian’s Ruling Regarding Pathway to Legal Status Via Reconciliation (Press Release, September 19, 2021)
    • “We are deeply disappointed in the Parliamentarian’s decision, but the fight for immigration reform will continue. Senate Democrats have prepared an alternative proposal for the Parliamentarian’s consideration in the coming days.”
  • Robert Menendez Statement on Senate Parliamentarian’s Decision to Block Immigration Proposals in Budget Reconciliation (Press Release, September 19, 2021)
    • “We strategized and prepared solid arguments for the Senate Parliamentarian on the merits of providing a pathway to citizenship through the reconciliation process, and while I disagree with her decision today, I always knew this would be a long process. I and my Democratic colleagues intend to continue working until we get to yes with the Parliamentarian.”
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Statement on Parliamentarian’s Ruling Regarding Pathway to Legal Status Via Reconciliation (Press Release, September 20, 2021)
    • “While we did not get the decision we wanted from the Senate Parliamentarian, the fight is far from over,” said Chair Dr. Ruiz. “
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hopes to cover as many people as possible in the budget plan. [Washington Post, September 4, 2021]
  • Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Reaffirmed the Inclusion of Immigration Reform in Budget Resolution. [Press Release, August 9, 2021]
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Clearly Supported Immigration Reform in Reconciliation Bill in Press Conference with House Leadership. [Roll Call, April 7, 2021]

Government Updates

Media and Opinion Editorials

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21091005.