US immigration reforms: Setback for Indians looking to pay 'super fee' for green card

Published: 09/20/2021

Source: Times of India

In a setback to Indians stuck in decades-long green card backlog, US Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has ruled that immigration reforms proposed by the Democrats cannot be part of the reconciliation bill.

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The Democrats were hoping to introduce immigration reforms via this bill which would have enabled those caught in green card backlogs to pay a supplemental fee and obtain legal permanent residency (aka green cards). The bill would have also provided a pathway to citizenship to dreamers (including aged out children of parents who held work visas such as H-1B).

The decision by MacDonough, the Senate's nonpartisan interpreter of its often enigmatic rules, is a damaging and disheartening setback for President Joe Biden, Congressional Democrats and their allies in the pro-immigration and progressive communities.

Notably, MacDonough, who has held the position of the Senate Parliamentarian since 2012, is not an elected official. Her role is advisory in nature.

The Democrats were pushing for immigration reforms via a reconciliation (budget) bill, as it required only a simple majority and was protected from the filibuster provision that required at least 60 Republican votes.

However, it is back to the drawing board for the Democrats who now appear to be readying a Plan B.

In an official statement, US senate majority whip, Dick Durbin, who is also chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Alex Padilla, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety said: “We are deeply disappointed in the Parliamentarian’s decision, but the fight for immigration reform will continue. Senate Democrats have prepared alternative proposals for the Parliamentarian’s consideration in the coming days.”

Cyrus Mehta, a New York-based immigration attorney, told TOI that an option available is to invoke a law known as the registry, which would allow anyone present in the US prior to a certain date to become a legal permanent resident.

Immigration attorney Greg Siskind points out that Vice President Kamala Harris has the authority to overrule the Parliamentarian.

Social media is rife with posts calling for the removal of the Parliamentarian.

However, it does look like this stand was anticipated, as Plan B is set to be rolled out shortly.

Legal dreamers also have hope in another bill - The American Children’s Act - that provides them a pathway to citizenship.
Introduced in the Senate a few days ago, this bill also seeks to protect documented dreamers from aging out of their legal immigration status when they turn 21, in addition to making them eligible for work once they turn 16.

In particular, the Parliamentarian ruling states, “The question before us is whether a series of proposed amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that remove existing barriers to adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident (LPR) for a variety of existing and newly created classes of immigrants and non-immigrants, including many not legally present in the US, is a policy change that substantially outweighs the budgetary impact of that change ...”

It adds, “The reasons that people risk their lives to come to this country – to escape religious and political persecution, famine, war, unspeakable violence and lack of opportunity in their home countries – cannot be measured in federal dollars. The same is true of the value of having the security of LPR status in this country. LPR status comes with a wide range of benefits far beyond the social safety net programs (Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, CHIP, SSI, etc) ...”

“LPR status would give these people freedom to work, travel and live openly in our society in any state in the nation, and to reunite with their families and it would make them eligible, in time, to apply for citizenship – things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent. Changing the law to clear the way to LPR status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” is the reasoning given by the Parliamentarian for not including immigration reforms in the budgetary bill.

Meanwhile, a White House spokesperson has reportedly told Fox News that President Biden has made it clear that he backs the effort to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and expects Democrats to offer a new proposal for the Senate Parliamentarian to consider.

Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer of a non-profit providing immigration legal services, has tweeted, “NO, the ruling of the Parliamentarian on immigration does not mean the door is closing. We have more chances to include a path to citizenship in the reconciliation package. Let’s keep pushing.”

Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a bi-partisan political organisation whose founders include US corporate leaders, states, “Regarding the reported news from the Senate Parliamentarian, as we have been saying for weeks, we anticipated this would be a multi-step, iterative process with multiple bites at the apple.”

"We continue to be confident that the ability for people to adjust status will be passed through the reconciliation process given the clear and substantial budgetary and economic impact,” he adds.

Source: Times of India
 
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