Immigrant Benefits Axed in Latest Congress Talks on Undocumented

  • Moderates pushed to eliminate immigrants’ public benefits
  • Latest development comes after multiple cuts to plans

House Democrats are weighing dramatic cuts to immigration provisions that are a shell of lawmakers’ original goal of providing a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The latest proposal in Democrats’ sweeping social spending and tax bill is an immigration parole provision that would bar applicants from receiving government benefits, including food stamps, children’s health insurance, and other social safety net programs, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Democrats in both the House and Senate were earlier considering a parole option that would offer work authorization and deportation protections to immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2011. Under existing law, immigrants with parole status qualify for a broad range of public benefits—many of them after five years of status.

Moderate Democrats have prevailed in recent talks on the issue, forcing House leaders and progressives to drop efforts to provide a path to citizenship and offer government benefits to people in the U.S. unlawfully, the sources said.

Democrats are hurriedly working to lock in text for the legislative package, and immigration is one of a handful of major sticking points among factions of moderates and progressives in both the House and Senate. Lobbyists are waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to release text of the package, which could come as early as Tuesday night.

What’s in and what’s out for the immigration section has changed repeatedly, sometimes by the hour, as Democrats seek language that suits most members of their party and the all-important Senate parliamentarian, a staff official who advises whether provisions qualify for the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to pursue their agenda.

Photo: Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
The office of the Parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate.

Budget reconciliation allows legislation to pass on a simple majority vote in the Senate but requires provisions to be primarily budget-related.

Earlier this week, Democrats were trying to push a downsized version of an immigration registry update, which would provide a path to citizenship to people in the U.S. for a certain amount of time. It’s unclear whether that proposal is still alive.

Also unknown is the fate of green card recapture provisions that would address backlogs in the legal immigration system. House Democrats included the measures in draft text last week, but their Senate counterparts have been noncommittal, and it’s not clear whether the provisions will land in the final text.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com

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