Democrats Aim to Keep Immigration Options Open in Latest Move

  • Immigration proposals for Democratic agenda bill in flux
  • Provision to recapture expired green cards likely to advance

House Democrats plan to advance an already rejected immigration proposal to offer a pathway to legal status for millions of undocumented people, though whether the provision will land in a final package remains to be seen.

The proposal, known as the immigration registry update, was part of Democrats’ backup plan in their sweeping tax and social spending package after the official who oversees Senate rules in September rejected their more ambitious proposal for a path to citizenship.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Immigrants participate in a naturalization ceremony in Daley Plaza on Sept. 16, 2014, in Chicago.

Democrats and Republicans have skirmished for years over whether, and how, to bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of a shadow economy, raising the political stakes on immigration policy.

The registry proposal involves updating the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow people to seek legal status if they arrived in the U.S. before a certain date.

It, too, was rejected when the Senate parliamentarian determined it was too policy-oriented to qualify for the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to pursue their agenda. That procedure allows a simple majority vote in the Senate, and requires bill provisions to be primarily budget-related.

Lawmakers are seeking approval for a third proposal that would grant humanitarian parole status, including work authorization and deportation protections for some undocumented immigrants. They aim to present it to the parliamentarian Friday or early next week, but the timing is fluid, a Democratic aide said.

Immigrant Protections Short of Path to Citizenship Gain Traction

With crunch time approaching on the reconciliation deal, House lawmakers have opted to move forward with the immigration registry language for now, according to the aide and two other sources familiar with the matter.

House Democrats can then vote on the bill and send it to the Senate, and the caucus can later work out whether to swap in the humanitarian parole proposal, if approved by the parliamentarian, or stick with the registry update and attempt to sidestep the parliamentarian, the sources said.

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) confirmed during a hallway interview Tuesday that the strategy is for Democrats to keep their options open on immigration as the parliamentarian reviews proposals.

Reagan-Era Legal Immigration Path Eyed as Option for Democrats

House Democrats also plan to retain provisions advanced by the House Judiciary Committee that would streamline the legal immigration system by recapturing unused family- and employment-based green cards, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Their ultimate inclusion in the package is still subject to change, depending on the fate of the other immigration provisions, they said.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y) is still pushing Senate colleagues to embrace the green card provisions, he told Bloomberg Government on Tuesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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