(Adds comments from Sens. Mazie Hirono, Dick Durbin in paragraphs 6-8.)
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Democrats plan to allocate $100 billion to immigration as part of their sweeping tax and social spending bill even if a Senate rules official rejects their latest effort to protect undocumented people, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said.
The White House released a framework Thursday that sets aside $100 billion for immigration-related measures “consistent with the Senate’s reconciliation rules.”
The Senate parliamentarian—a staff lawyer who advises on measures eligible for the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to advance their domestic agenda—will soon review a proposal to provide work authorization and deportation protections for some undocumented immigrants through humanitarian parole status.
Some type of immigration measure will move forward no matter what, Kaine said.
“We‘re going to spend these resources on immigration reform regardless of the ruling,” Kaine said. “The shape of those reforms is still awaiting the parliamentarian ruling on this kind of protected status.”
Democrats are looking for “creative” ways to ensure the immigration funding provides the greatest relief possible, even if the parliamentarian shoots down the most ambitious proposals, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said.
“It’s been such a huge challenge to get any kind of an immigration provision that’s going to really be helpful to a lot of immigrants in our country, and I want to get us on that path somehow,” she said. “We have to put our heads together and figure out how that money can best be used in the way that I’d like to see.”
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) underscored Democrats’ commitment to addressing immigration, saying in a statement that “now is the time and reconciliation is the way.”
House Democrats on Thursday released draft text of the legislative package (H.R. 5376). It includes a separate proposal to update a federal registry law that allows people to apply for legal status if they’ve been in the country since a certain date. The update would extend to immigrants who arrived before 2010.
The Senate parliamentarian already rejected the proposal earlier this month. House Democrats are including it as a functional placeholder, in a maneuver to keep their options open as they wait to see if the parole proposal is approved. Lawmakers may later swap in the parole language or something else.
The House draft also includes provisions to help people in the legal immigration system by recapturing unused green cards, allowing some immigrants to adjust their legal status faster and bypass some overall and per-country caps on visas.
It remained unclear Thursday whether the provisions would end up in a final deal.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said lawmakers plan to “scrub” the language to ensure everything included meets Senate reconciliation rules, which require all provisions to relate to the federal budget.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at email@example.com