Defense Spending Bill Presents Immigrants With Another Chance at Relief

Jul 12, 2022
11:25 AM

Young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and are the children of legal visa holders, stand behind lawmakers advocating for a renewed effort to pass legal protections immigrants during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is currently being debated in the House and Senate, and the annual military spending bill is considered a “must pass” by members of both parties.

At least eight immigrant relief amendments have been offered by House members for inclusion in the NDAA, including one by Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) that would protect so-called “documented DREAMers” who age out of their parents’ visa protection when they turn 21.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) expressed a willingness to protect documented DREAMers via the NDAA when asked by Latino Rebels on Monday afternoon.

“If Sen. Reed and Sen. Inhofe are open to that and think it would be helpful to the bill—or at least, not harmful in the House,” Blunt offered as a caveat, referring to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). “We always authorize NDA and that should be a top-of-the-line question, but I’m not sure about the discussion on solving some other problems along with that. I’m just now in that discussion right now.”

Another House amendment to the NDAA that has been discussed during the current Congress was previously submitted by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). The amendment would make it easier for immigrants with PhDs or Master’s degrees in certain STEM-related fields to get a green card.

Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), a conferee on U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in which Krishnamoorthi’s amendment was initially submitted, had previously told Latino Rebels that the bill was not the right vehicle for immigrant relief. But on Monday Young said that the NDAA might make sense for immigrant relief amendments.

“NDAA is something that so many members of Congress tend to vote on, oftentimes without a lot of scrutiny,” Young told Latino Rebels. “So perhaps it would be a strong vehicle to include” Krishnamoorthi’s amendment.

There is precedent to passing immigrant relief provisions via the NDAA. In December 2019, Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness (LIRF) passed as an amendment to the NDAA, offering green cards to Liberians living in the United States since 2014.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a longtime supporter of immigrant relief, said he hadn’t seen the amendments being considered in the House. Democratic Sens. Angus King (ME) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) echoed Kaine.

“If we have Republicans who are willing to join us and do something on immigration, then it could be,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) when asked by Latino Rebels if the NDAA could be the vehicle for finally passing immigrant relief through Congress.

Asked about the pileup of immigrant relief provisions during the current Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he “would like to see us deal with those in any way we can.”


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