Will Immigration Reform Be a ‘Pay-For’ in Democrats’ Budget Proposal?

Sep 7, 2021
1:53 PM

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants hangs in the balance on Capitol Hill this week as congressional committees take the formal steps to advance the various components of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation proposal.

Binders with areas articulating the giant social agenda championed by Joe Biden’s White House and the Democratic caucuses in both chambers have been distributed to relevant Hill staffers in what is otherwise a pretty low-key work week in the Capitol complex.

As Hill staffers return to work after a week of recess, a key question arises about the pathway to citizenship that key Democrats in the House and Senate have told Latino Rebels that they support passing through reconciliation. The question is whether immigration reform will cost taxpayers within the reconciliation framework or “pay-for” part of the social agenda proposed through Democrats’ budget agreement.

A “pay-for” in the parlance of the legislative process in Congress means an item that will pay for itself, at least, if not other items in a proposed piece of legislation.

“Anytime there’s been a CBO [Congressional Budget Office] examination on immigration reform, it produces a significant increase in the GDP without really costing much money,” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Business Insider reporter Joseph Zeballos-Roig this past June. “So that may not be a traditional pay-for but if we feel like there’s something we could do within a reconciliation vehicle that could produce significant economic growth… that could be a very legitimate way to look at trying to find a balanced package.”

Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) echoed Kaine’s words.

“It seems to me if you had a comprehensive solution to immigration, it would be a significant ‘pay-for,'” Hickenlooper said in July. “In other words, it would generate a lot of revenue as people, instead of paying under the table, would pay taxes on what they pay to workers.”

Meanwhile, progressive members of Congress like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) have floated nine-figure budget expenditures associated with immigration reform.

“To me, it is absolutely imperative that we move forward on a path toward citizenship for undocumented people,” Sanders told reporters on July 30.

When pressed by Latino Rebels on whether immigration reform  would be an expenditure or a “pay-for” within the budget framework, Senator Sanders replied, “That’s about all I’d like to say on that right now.”

On Tuesday, a coalition of immigrant rights groups published an ad in the New York Times calling on Democrats to act now on a pathway to citizenship.

“After 35 years of inaction from Congress, we have a once in a generation opportunity to pass citizenship for millions through budget reconciliation,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, Executive Director of United We Dream, said in a Tuesday media release about the ad. “President Biden, Vice President [Kamala] Harris, Senate Majority Leader [Chuck] Schumer and House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi have all the power and it’s up to them to deliver. All year, immigrant youth of United We Dream have led the charge in demanding the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress use all their power to pass a pathway to citizenship for millions this year, no excuses.”

The Senate is currently adjourned until votes on Monday, September 13 at 3 p.m. ET. The House of Representatives is adjourned until votes on Monday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m. ET.