WASHINGTON – Buried in the $ 1.9 trillion Build Back Better plan is $ 100 billion for immigration reform, money that critics say has nothing to do with the bill and which migration advocates say does not go far enough.
The immigration provisions, which were included in the bill approved by the House on November 19 in a majority partisan vote, will certainly become a sticking point if and when the Senate passes the Build Back Better bill. , one of the main elements of the Biden administration. initiatives.
The money would be used for everything from expedited processing of immigration documents, to expanding visa availability and access to work permits for up to 7 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. United, among other provisions.
But it does not include a pathway to citizenship for these immigrants, which advocates see as a slap in the face that does not address the larger problem – the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
“The Build Back Better plan, the one passed in the House, is not a path to citizenship, and it just looks like a temporary band-aid,” said Vicki Gaubeca, policy and communications strategist for the House. Southern Border Communities Coalition.
“So that’s a short-term solution, but really, I think, ideally, we have to get immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are here without a work permit,” he said. declared Gaubeca.
This was echoed by Jose Patiño, director of education and external affairs at Aliento, an Arizona-based immigrant advocacy group.
“It has been since 1986, more than 35 years since we have had immigration reform,” Patiño said, referring to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Law. law, signed by President Ronald Reagan, has led to citizenship for over 2 million people. undocumented migrants who were in the country at the time.
But Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the United States has no ethical obligation to “reward” people who break the law by coming here illegally.
“No one promised the people who entered the country illegally that they were going to get some sort of advantage, you know, including a path to citizenship,” Mehlman said.
The bill currently before the Senate doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, but it does “provide a path to at least interim status, which is parole for, you know, for undocumented immigrants who arrive before the 1st. January 2011, ”Donald said. Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies in New York.
In addition to being here since 2010, immigrants who wish to apply for protection under the bill would be charged a fee for the application and would have to meet other criteria. Kerwin said it is similar to the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, under which work permits and other benefits are provided as well as temporary protection against deportation.
But the DACA only offers two years of protection, which can be renewed for two years at a time, to undocumented migrants who can prove they were illegally brought to the United States as children. Under the Build Back Better plan, however, the deportation deferral would be valid for five years at a time and renewable.
“This is a very positive bill,” Kerwin said.
Mehlman not only disagrees with the proposal, he disagrees with the way Democrats are trying to get it through the Senate.
With the Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, critics of the bill can easily block a measure by obstructing it, as it takes 60 votes to end an obstruction and move a measure for a vote. One solution is to adopt “budget reconciliation” measures, which only require a simple majority of 51 votes.
Mehlman noted that the Senate parliamentarian had previously rejected an attempt to include the language of immigration in a first reconciliation bill, and said it would have to happen again, as he doesn’t believe the proposal for migration policy “is really an investment”.
“She will have to decide again, that these are social policies that really have no place in a budget reconciliation bill,” Mehlman said of the parliamentarian.
“You can dress it up however you want, call it an investment. It’s not the case, it’s a major policy change, ”he said. “So, you know, that probably won’t be part of the final version of the Senate bill.”
Gaubeca has said that not only should this be included, but that she hopes senators will go further and include a path to citizenship, although she concedes that she is “a little bit super idealistic.”
“It would be great… to offer a path to citizenship, even if they have to send it back to the House,” she said.
Patiño said undocumented immigrants deserve a path to citizenship, noting their contributions to the United States by serving as frontline workers in dangerous circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They are the ones who risk their lives without vaccines, without access to unemployment, with very little equipment and making sure we have food on the table,” he said.