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Second bid for immigration relief in the U.S.’s Reconciliation Bill

Deportation protection and green cards for those waiting in the backlogs have been newly added to the Reconciliation bill by Democrats after their original immigration provisions were omitted by the Senate parliamentarian.

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    What is the Reconciliation Bill?

    A reconciliation bill is a way for the U.S. Senate to pass legislation without needing a two-thirds majority vote (at least 60 votes to pass). For a reconciliation bill to pass, it only needs a simple majority which is at least 51 votes to pass. All bills must be related to revenue, spending, and the federal debt limit in addition to being approved by both the House and Senate. Furthermore, filibusters are not allowed and the bill must meet the strict standards set by the non-partisan Senate Parliamentarian who can omit some provisions if they are found to not be relevant to the bill.


    What happened to the original immigration reforms?

    Immigration reform legislation in the first reconciliation bill included a package to grant lawful permanent residence (aka, green cards) to certain immigrants who were without legal statuses, such as DACA recipients and those who were in the United States under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). These reforms were found to be outside the scope of the bill and forced to be omitted from the reconciliation bill despite some tweaking to the immigration legislation by the Democrats.

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    What’s in the latest version of the Reconciliation Bill?

    Democrats are still intent on including some immigration reform legislation in the second draft of the reconciliation bill including adding an option to provide parole to people without legal status who arrived in the United States before January 1st, 2011. Parole would protect millions of people from deportation and provide work authorization. However, those under parole would still be without proper legal status and subject to deportation once their parole expires.

    Another possibility to be included in the bill would be the recapture of at least 226,000 family and employment-based immigrant visas that went unused between the 1992 – 2021 fiscal years. In addition, applicants who applied for an employment-based visa with a priority date more than 2 years before could adjust to permanent residence without being subject to the yearly cap if they pay a supplemental fee of $5,000 (for immigrant investors applying in the EB-5 category, this fee will be $50,000). Those who applied for a family-based visa with a priority date that is more than 2 years before could also adjust to permanent residence without being subject to the yearly cap if they pay a $2,500 supplemental fee.

    Those without a priority date not within 2 years for permanent residence could still file for adjustment of status for $1,500 while in the United States which would provide them with certain immigration benefits while they wait. The ability to file for adjustment of status while in the backlog could also benefit American employers who will not have to rely on the uncertain H-1B lottery or wait a substantial amount of time for the employee they sponsored to be approved.

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      Why does this have a better chance?

      Some argue that these immigration reform provisions have a better chance at being approved in the Reconciliation bill since many of these reforms like parole do not grant “life-long change in circumstances” which politically outweigh the impact of the budget. In addition, many Republicans do not oppose protection from deportation as they believe it provides immigrants with the time and opportunity to go through the legal immigration process which might mean that this reform could be an issue both political parties could agree on.

      Immigration reform also presents the possibility that the addition of skilled workers and talent could have a lucrative impact on the American economy. As it stands now, the annual limit of employment-based green cards in the United States is 140,000 and includes a 7% per-country limit. This limit creates a longer waiting time for those immigrants from India, China, and the Philippines. Without reform, it is estimated that it will take 195 years to clear the backlog of Indians seeking employment-based visas leaving many employers without the skilled professionals they need.

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