The Budget Reconciliation Bill & Immigration: What Does It Mean?
How Could It Have Helped Undocumented Individuals?
When the budget reconciliation bill was first written, many Americans were hopeful. There are an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and the first draft of the bill recognized the importance of their well-being. Unfortunately, the first draft of a bill is almost never the version that gets signed into law.
After the budget reconciliation bill was contested, rewritten, and passed, many immigrants and immigration reform advocates found their dreams were dashed.
Immigrants Were Negatively Impacted by the Former Administration
Some undocumented immigrants in the United States were able to take advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was designed to protect people from deportation if they came to the U.S. as children and lived in the United States most of their lives.
Rather than sending these immigrants back to a country they’ve never really known where people speak a language they may not speak, DACA provided a pathway to keep them in the United States, which was the only home they’ve ever known.
New DACA applications were no longer processed under the Trump administration. While people who had already been granted DACA status were allowed to renew their protections, people who had not filed for DACA status prior to that time were not allowed to apply.
This left many undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for protection feeling unsafe and insecure. Lawmakers who take a compassionate approach to immigration reform have sought ways to help undocumented immigrants find a pathway to permanent residency (or at least a way to avoid deportation) and have attempted to reconcile the situation. So far, all attempts have been unsuccessful.
What Is the Budget Reconciliation Bill?
A budget reconciliation bill is any bill to correct the government’s budget that can be passed quickly. Bills that reallocate the existing budget — rather than adding or subtracting a significant amount of money — can be moved through the Senate and signed into law quickly.
The 2022 budget reconciliation bill is referred to as the Inflation Reduction Act, and it was passed in August of 2022. The bill contains provisions for healthcare-related costs, job creation, clean energy initiatives, and the American manufacturing industry.
The bill initially started as a much more ambitious project to fortify the budget for causes and initiatives that the left side of the aisle felt to be important.
The provisions in budget bills are always up for debate between both sides of the aisle. Each party has the opportunity to speak about what they’d like to include or omit. A final version of the budget bill is created after negotiation, and the majority needs to vote “yes” in order for the bill to be passed.
What Does the Inflation Reduction Act Have To Do With Immigration?
Both sides of the political aisle held intense debates about what (if any) immigration provisions should be put into the Inflation Reduction Act.
Democrats pushed to include provisions to protect undocumented workers in key industries and help undocumented immigrants obtain important documents like work permits and travel permits. This was positioned as a soft step in the direction of immigration reform. It would also compensate undocumented immigrants who lost their ability to file for DACA status.
The issue became quickly contested, with Republicans arguing that it was unnecessary to include these provisions within the budget reconciliation bill. Republicans countered with their desire to extend the enforcement of an obscure immigration law called Title 42.
What Is Title 42?
Title 42 gives the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the power to close the border if they believe that people crossing the border could be harmful to the collective health of American citizens.
Title 42 was called a public health measure. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the borders were closed, with the interest of public health being cited as the cause. The Administration cited that undocumented immigrants crossing the border may expose American citizens to COVID-19, thwarting public health measures to keep the pandemic under control.
Under the Trump Administration, Title 42 was used to expel or deny about 1.8 million attempted entries at the United States border. Approximately half of those expulsions were people who were turned away once and attempted to enter the United States again.
When the CDC said that the use of Title 42 was no longer necessary, the Biden Administration attempted to stop it. A federal court prevented Biden from doing so, and Title 42 continued to remain in effect at the border. Republicans wanted to extend Title 42 indefinitely.
Republicans also propose that funds pledged to help combat climate change be redirected to border control enforcement, strengthening the Department of Homeland Security’s reach and preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the country.
The Final Outcome of Immigration in the Budget Reconciliation Bill
Unfortunately, there was no significant outcome for immigration in the budget reconciliation bill. Although the ideas started out as promising, they were quickly shut down. Both sides argued their case until all immigration issues were officially removed from the bill. Undocumented immigrants won’t receive access to work permits or travel permits.
This also means that the Republican side of the debate didn’t get what they wanted: Title 42 can’t be extended indefinitely, and climate change funds weren’t redirected to the Department of Homeland Security.
While the budget reconciliation bill included many provisions that were helpful to the average American, it failed to make any headway for immigration reform.
Are There Any Other Bills That May Help Immigrants?
Immigration issues are often wrapped in legislative red tape. It’s difficult to pass these bills on their own, so provisions for immigrants are often incorporated into larger bills related to issues like national security or the national budget. These issues are always the most contested issues, with many politicians calling them unnecessary provisions.
Many bills to help immigrants are quickly shut down or placed on the back burner until they’re completely ignored. It’s a sad state of affairs for millions of Americans who want to see a safe pathway to citizenship for their friends, family members, and the people who help their community thrive.
Remain hopeful. A new bill could pop up any day now. Midterm elections were just finished. A change of politicians and a fresh perspective might make new opportunities for immigrants possible. You never know what the future may bring.
Other Immigration Provisions Suffered Similar Fates
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was aimed at strengthening national security and initially contained valuable provisions for immigration.
The NDAA bill contained special provisions for special immigrant status to citizens of Afghanistan who have assisted military efforts within the country. It also makes it easier for students in Afghanistan to obtain student visas and pursue an education in the United States.
The version of the bill that passed was different. It ended the Pentagon’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan during its regime change crisis.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was written to emphasize the role that immigrant farm workers play in keeping the country fed. It contained provisions to protect immigrant farm workers and improve their station within American society.
Lawmakers got busy, and the bill was pushed to the back burner. At this time, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act seems to have died. It’s not likely that we’ll see a vote on the matter or that any of its proposals will be written into law.
Do Undocumented Immigrants in the United States Currently Have Any Protection?
Undocumented immigrants in the United States who aren’t currently a part of programs like DACA don’t have any protection from deportation. The only way to get protection from deportation is to qualify for some other immigration status.
An admission that you’re in the country without legal status can be considered a crime. If your case is severe or if you arrived in the United States as a minor, immigration officers may be willing to overlook some facts about your arrival.
If you’re currently an undocumented immigrant in the United States, you need to contact a knowledgeable attorney immediately. An experienced and compassionate immigration lawyer will be able to inform you of your options. If there’s a path to legal status that may work for you, your attorney can help you pursue that path.
There are pathways to legal status for asylum seekers, victims of crime or abuse, foreign children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected and are in the United States, and family members of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents. It can be difficult to safely obtain these visas on your own.
Asylum is very difficult to obtain. Asylum seekers are sent through a complicated maze of different government agencies. They’re also interviewed ad nauseam before they can be considered for asylee status. If they aren’t granted asylum, they’ll be deported.
The U visa is designed primarily to help people who are victims of certain criminal offenses and is reserved for people who have endured substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a crime victim. You must prove you were a victim of a qualifying crime to receive a U visa, which lasts for four years.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
If you’re under the age of 21 and at least one of your parents have abused, neglected, or abandoned you and you are in the United States, you may be eligible for special immigrant juvenile status. You have to prove to a juvenile court that you have been abused, abandoned or neglected by at least one of your parents and that reunification with parents is not viable and returning to your home country is not in your best interest.
If you’re granted special immigrant juvenile status, you’ll receive a pathway to permanent residency in the United States. That means you’ll have a green card that will allow you to live, work, and/or pursue an education in America. As long as you don’t commit any crimes, you won’t be deported.
Permanent Residency Through Marriage
If you marry a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, they can sponsor your application for an immigrant visa that you can use to obtain a green card. USCIS thoroughly checks relationships to verify that they’re legitimate. You can’t simply marry a friend. You need to prove that you’re genuinely in a relationship with the person you marry.
If you’ve lived in the United States for a long time, chances are high that the person you ultimately marry will be a United States citizen or permanent resident. It may not be difficult for you to legitimately obtain a green card through marriage.
Lawful Permanent Residency Through a Family Member
If you have a brother, sister, child, or parent who is a United States citizen, they can agree to sponsor you to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. They’ll file paperwork on your behalf, and if the paperwork is approved, you may be given a pathway to lawful permanent residency.
Family members who are lawful permanent residents can only sponsor their spouses or their children. If you’re married to a United States permanent resident or if you’re the unmarried child of a United States permanent resident, they can apply for you.
Processing times for these types of visas are among the longest. Many people won’t receive a response for s ten years or more. The backlog of applications for these visas is very long, and the United States only approves a set number of them every year.
The Outcome Is Disappointing for Many, But We’re Here to Help
The Cohen, Tucker & Ades team is passionate about immigration reform. Some of us immigrated to the United States ourselves to pursue our American dream. We want the same for everyone who strives to make America a diverse country at the forefront of innovation.
If you need legal solutions for immigration, you can always contact us. We’ll review your case and discuss your best options for immigrating to the United States.