Featured Issue: Immigration Reforms through Budget Reconciliation

On September 19, the Senate Parliamentarian issued a ruling that the budgetary impact of the immigration reform package proposed by Democrats, including the path to citizenship for undocumented populations, would be substantially outweighed by policy changes in the proposal. The ruling prevents the current package of immigration reforms from being included in the budget reconciliation bill. This news is a major disappointment since the budget reconciliation process would enable the Senate Democrats to pass immigration reform on a simple majority without Republican votes.

Our chances for winning reform this year are not over. Senate Democratic leaders have already indicated they will turn to alternative immigration proposals and will present those to the Parliamentarian in the upcoming days. Now more than ever, it is critical that AILA members and advocates keep the pressure on Congress to enact immigration reform as part of the budget reconciliation bill.

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AILA continues to advocate for our top priorities be included in the bill, including a legalization program that provides a path to citizenship for the largest possible undocumented population. Beyond legalization, AILA has also worked to include provisions that recapture unused visas, prevent future loss of immigrant visas, and exempt certain immigrant visa applicants from the immigrant visa limitations. AILA has also pushed for provisions that would expand access to legal representation and needed Immigration Court reforms. Notably, AILA has also underscored for Congress the importance of opposing amendments that would exclude individuals from a pathway to citizenship, create barriers to accessing visa numbers, and undermine access to asylum or increase detention of migrants at the southern border. Senate leaders will continue to develop proposals consistent with the budget resolution passed by the House and Senate in August.

AILA will continue to monitor developments in this fast-moving process.

Momentum continues to build to enact immigration reform. AILA’s Greg Chen explains how the legislative process called budget reconciliation can lead to significant immigration reforms, where we are in the process, and what can AILA members and public do to make reform a reality.

AILA Resources

Legislation Updates

Government Updates

  • House Judiciary Committee Immigration Legislative Text
    • On September 13, 2021, the House Judiciary Committee completed a mark-up of the Committee’s portion of the immigration provisions in the Build Back Better Act. The recently released text of these provisions includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS and DED holders, and essential workers (including agricultural workers). The definition of essential worker is based on the DHS’ Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s Advisory Memorandum on Ensuring Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker’s Ability to Work During the Covid-19 Response, issued on August 10, 2021. Other reforms included in the text are the recapture of unused green cards and restoring the availability of certain immigrant visas. There is also additional investment for USCIS to process these new applications and reduce processing backlogs. While some amendments were offered during mark-up that would have removed or limited eligibility for these provisions, they were voted down and the legislation passed 25-19 on a party line vote. The final text is still subject to change as the bill makes its way through the Senate and back to a House floor vote on the reconciled bill.
  • Budget resolution text provides general instructions for committees to draft legislation as outlined in the FY2022 Budget Resolution Agreement Framework and the adopted amendments.

Members of Congress Statements

  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hopes to cover as many people as possible in the budget plan. [Washington Post, September 4, 2021]
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) Urged His Colleagues to Take the Opportunity to Pass Pathway to Citizenship in Reconciliation Bill. [Floor Speech, August 9, 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]

Media & Opinion Editorials

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21091005.