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Key Facts Regarding the Immigration Reforms in the House BBB Bill

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Washington, DC — We are at a critical juncture. The House is gearing up to vote on the Build Back Better bill and the House Judiciary Committee has included immigration reforms. We at America’s Voice support these reforms and urge their passage. 

Here are some key points that members of Congress should consider as they review the immigration provisions in BBB:

  • The proposal gives long-settled immigrants a chance to work legally and live without the fear of deportation. The bill would grant work permits, protection against deportation and international travel authorization to an estimated 7.1 million undocumented immigrants for a period of 10 years (10 years is the window for reconciliation bills). Immigrants who arrived in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2011 and pass a background check are eligible. 
  • Those eligible for immigration permits have lived in the U.S. an average of 20 years. They have worked, supported their families, and paid taxes – and have been mostly excluded from safety net benefits. Of those eligible, it is estimated that 1.6 million are Dreamers, 360,000 are TPS holders, 1 million are farm workers, and another 2.6 million are other essential workers.
  • It’s not what immigrants have earned, and it would be a big step forward. Most Americans and all Democrats support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants settled in America. However, under the arcane rules of the budget reconciliation process, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled twice against path to citizenship proposals. This immigration permit proposal is designed to meet her concerns. This is from a House Judiciary Committee summary:

“As many of our nation’s top economists have confirmed, the economic benefits of immigration are substantial and uncontroverted. We are confident that the budgetary effects of this new provision substantially outweigh the policy implications and we anticipate a ruling from the Parliamentarian on this provision in the near future.”

  • Safety net services for eligible immigrants are nothing new and are heavily restricted. Some are suggesting this proposal creates new benefits to those who are eligible. This is false. Those who receive immigration permits under this proposal would be eligible for a very restricted set of benefits that exist in current law. They would be ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are required to wait at least 5 years before becoming eligible for other major federal welfare programs (Medicaid, SCHIP, TANF, SNAP, and most won’t be able to qualify for EITC.
  • The freedom to work, the freedom to live without fear of deportation, the freedom to travel. The immigration permit program would transform millions of lives. It would grant peace of mind and new opportunities to immigrants who have never had a work permit; to workers who have suffered exploitation because of their lack of status; to heads of family who live in fear that today might be the day they are pulled over and ripped from their home and family; to deeply-rooted immigrants who for decades have not been able to visit and hug relatives back in the home country. No, it’s not citizenship. But it’s much better than the status quo, and it is a big step in the direction of citizenship for all.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Undocumented immigrants have earned a place at the American table. Deemed by the federal government as both ‘essential’ and ‘deportable,’ it’s time for Congress to act. 

The immigration permit program would transform the daily lives of millions of Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers who have lived in the U.S. for an average of 20 years. No, it’s not the path to citizenship that America’s immigrants deserve. But it’s what is possible under budget reconciliation this year. 

After 35 years of fighting for reform, it is our view that the immigration permit program will offer meaningful protections to millions. Let’s get this done this year, and let’s continue the fight in the coming years until we win citizenship for all.