Nov 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats get hopeful sign from parliamentarian on immigration

A section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is seen.

A section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico, is seen in 2019. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democrats got a hopeful sign from the Senate rules referee Tuesday in their effort to include provisions for undocumented immigrants in the $1.75 trillion "human" infrastructure bill they hope to pass through the partisan reconciliation process.

Driving the news: The Senate parliamentarian met with Democratic staff about the immigration provisions and did not rule out their inclusion in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, sources familiar with the meeting told Axios.

  • The provisions in question would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits, permission to travel and to receive temporary protection from deportation.
  • The official ruling is expected in the coming weeks, although no date is yet set, the sources said.

Why it matters: Democrats have promised to pursue immigration reform through the legislation that's also focused on expanding the social safety net and addressing climate change.

  • Their two previous proposals were turned away by the Senate parliamentarian.
  • Two people familiar with discussions described the outcome of Tuesday's meeting as a positive sign.
  • The Senate Parliamentarian did not accept, reject or recommend changes to the proposal — only moving it along to a formal test of budgetary effects in which both parties will be able to make their case to the parliamentarian.

Flashback: The two previous plans rejected by the Senate parliamentarian offered legal permanent residency.

Plan A — A proposal to provided as many as 8 million undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship was rejected in an official “Byrd Bath," a vet to see if it has a budgetary effect and, therefore, can be included in a reconciliation bill.

Plan B — A move to update an outdated immigration registry to provide green cards for some undocumented immigrants was rejected during another review.

  • The parliamentarian later called it a “weighty policy change” not budgetary in nature.
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