Senate Parliamentarian Advises Against Third Immigrant Relief Proposal for Budget Bill

Dec 16, 2021
7:39 PM

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., returns to the chamber after a lengthy Democratic Caucus meeting, as the Senate continues to grapple with end-of-year tasks at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, December 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has advised the Senate against including a third immigrant relief proposal presented by Senate Democrats in the Build Back Better Act.

The news broke Thursday evening at the Capitol but rumors had been swirling openly all week in the Senate hallways that Judiciary Committee Staffers for Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) had received MacDonough’s guidance on a proposal specifically designed to pass the Parliamentarian which included temporary work permits and protections from deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The tenets of that proposal, known as Plan C after Plans A and B were both rejected, were promoted by Immigration Hub, a Beltway lobbyist group.

“The proposed parole policy is not much different in its effect than the previous proposals we have considered,” read the memo from the Parliamentarian’s office, as confirmed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Thursday evening. “The proposal, which would increase the deficit by $131 billion over 10 years, creates a class of eligible people (those who have been in the country for 10 years or more) who will qualify for a grant of parole in place status. This new class would make eligible for parole 6.5 million people —nearly the same number of people as the previous two plans. CBO estimates that 3 million people would adjust to LPR status—2 million of whom would be otherwise ineligible under current law. In order to effectuate the policy, the parole proposal changes the contours of the current parole in place program, making it a mandatory award of status for qualifying applicants rather than the current discretionary use of the Secretary’s authority and assessment, which the USCIS website states that the Secretary grants ‘only sparingly.’ The grant of parole will be accompanied by mandatory issuances of work authorization, travel documents, a deeming of qualification for REAL ID, and automatic renewal of PIP. These are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact.”

Senate aides tell Latino Rebels that less than an hour before the news broke of the Parliamentarian’s decision on Thursday, all four Hispanic Caucus senators briefly huddled near the chamber then requested to meet immediately with Senate Majority Leader Schumer.

Schumer agreed to the meeting. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) met with Schumer in his office for approximately 30 minutes before publishing their joint statement condemning the Parliamentarian’s guidance and calling for their fellow senators to disregard it, a strategy that echoes a letter signed by 90 House Democrats last month pushing for the same.

“We strongly disagree with the Senate parliamentarian’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act,” the joint statement said. “Throughout the entire reconciliation process, we have worked to ensure that immigration reform was not treated as an afterthought. The majority of Americans support our efforts to provide legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States because it would raise wages, create good-paying jobs, enrich our economy, and improve the lives of all Americans. The American people understand that fixing our broken immigration system is a moral and economic imperative, and we stand with the millions of immigrant families across the country who deserve better and for whom we will not stop fighting.”

Advocates for Plan C also vowed to work on next steps, although it was unclear what those next steps would be.

“I’m so sorry to report that the Senate Parliamentarian issued a negative ruling on the parole Plan C proposal,” read an internal email to the We Are Home coalition steering committee confirmed by two sources to be from Immigration Hub’s Kerri Talbot, one of the architects of the proposal rejected by the Parliamentarian. “She complained that the proposal was too large, included green cards for parolees, and was mandatory rather than discretionary. Our thoughts are with all of you, especially the directly impacted among you. Thank you all for all your hard work, strength, and perseverance. We’ll circle back on any next steps including the Byrd Bath on recapture, early filing, and diversity visas. Many groups will continue to lead the disregard the parl strategy and we will continue to update on that strategy as well.”


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports