Democrats Scramble to Keep Immigration Overhaul Alive in Reconciliation Bill


Significantly, the proposal would not put the millions of undocumented immigrants on a direct path to citizenship — the new measure alone would not entitle them to immediately get green cards. Immigrants currently eligible for a green card, such as the parents of adult U.S. citizens, would still be able to pursue citizenship under the plan.

Supporters of the plan have argued that the watered-down proposal should satisfy the parliamentarian, who had criticized the size of earlier versions.

The legislation would offer undocumented immigrants not just protection from deportation, but also the ability to obtain a work permit — a point that immigration advocates say should more clearly connect the provision to the federal budget, making it easier for the parliamentarian to allow it under the rules of reconciliation.

“This is a last-ditch effort to try and salvage something for the reconciliation process that can provide some level of protection for the undocumented while Democrats hold control of the Congress,” said Cris Ramón, an immigration consultant based in Washington, adding that it is “not necessarily I think where proponents wanted to land.”

The Democrats’s plan would include most undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before Jan. 1, 2011, and could help between 7 million and 8 million people, the people familiar with the plan said. It would allow those covered to travel out of the country with the approval of Homeland Security.

The proposal essentially codifies an enhanced version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012, giving work permits and legal status to people who came to the United States before 2012 and have lived in the country continuously since then.

“My guiding principle throughout the ongoing reconciliation process has been providing a pathway to citizenship for the largest swath of the undocumented community,” said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who has worked on the issue, said in a statement. “In spite of the parliamentarian’s recent negative opinions, I will continue to work with my colleagues and a broad coalition of groups, including advocates, to find a path forward.”

The expansive social safety net legislation would expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing, allow the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, and include funding for paid family leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, and investments to address climate change. Democratic leaders are currently working on paring down the $3.5 trillion package to draw the support of centrist Democrats needed to get the measure to Mr. Biden’s desk.

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

scroll to top