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Supporting the Meaningful Immigration Provisions in the Build Back Better Legislative Package

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Washington, DC — The House approved the Build Back Better bill with immigration reform provisions intact. We are close to delivering long overdue relief for millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for decades. While the bill does not include the path to citizenship that America’s immigrants have earned, it does represent a major step forward. Not only will it protect 7.1 million undocumented immigrants with work permits and deportation protections, we believe it will propel us forward in our quest for a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork.

Below we highlight four key points:

  1. The immigration provisions of BBB would provide meaningful relief for 7.1 million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for an average of 20 years.
  2. The provisions are specifically designed to pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.
  3. The American public strongly supports reform and relief for undocumented immigrants.

The immigration reform provisions of BBB would provide meaningful relief for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for an average of 20 years

The core immigration reform component in BBB 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 (the window for budget reconciliation measures). Immigrants who arrived in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2011 and pass a background check are eligible – including an estimated 1.6 million Dreamers, 360,000 TPS holders, 1 million farm workers, and 2.6 million other essential workers. New research from FWD.us estimates that more than 17 million people live in households with at least one individual who could benefit from the immigration relief provisions – including some 8.5 million U.S. citizens of which nearly 5 million are U.S. citizen minor children.

The population eligible for relief has 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. Those who receive the immigration permits in the House-passed bill would be eligible for a restricted set of benefits that exist in current law (see more here).

Enacting these reforms would allow millions to live without fear of deportation, work without fear of exploitation caused by their lack of immigration status, and be eligible to receive permission to travel abroad to see loved ones from whom they have been separated for decades. It is not the direct path to citizenship that Americans support and immigrants have earned, but it nevertheless represents a meaningful step forward and, we believe, a meaningful step towards achieving our goal of citizenship for all.

The provisions are specifically designed to pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian

Under the arcane rules of the budget reconciliation process, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled twice against path to citizenship proposals. We, along with many legal observers, think the Parliamentarian got it wrong in her past rulings (see more here). Nonetheless, the immigration permit proposal in BBB is designed specifically to meet her concerns. Those throwing cold water on the prospects of the latest immigration provisions should take a closer look.

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.”

Now that the immigration provisions have passed the House, Senate leaders must move forward and make their case to the Parliamentarian. Senator Durbin (D-IL) and the four Latino Democratic Senators – Sens. Menendez (NJ), Lujan (NM), Cortez-Masto (NV) and Padilla (CA) – have provided outstanding leadership in shepherding the immigration proposal through the process. They will be instrumental in defending the legislation from efforts by the Parliamentarian or the Republicans to change or water down what has passed the House.

The American public strongly supports reform and relief for undocumented immigrants

A new poll of likely midterm voters in frontline congressional districts shows overwhelming public support – 81-17% – for work permits, the core immigration reform provision in the Build Back Better bill. Global Strategy Group and Garin-Hart-Yang surveyed likely 2022 midterm voters in more than 30 congressional districts across the country on behalf of FWD.us, Emerson Collective and America’s Voice. By 81-17%, these swing district voters support work permits for undocumented immigrants, the core immigration reform provision in BBB. Support for the work permits proposal is high across party lines, with 96% of Democrats, 81% of independents, and 65% of Republicans supporting the work permits proposal.

A November 2021 poll from Data for Progress similarly found 75-20% support for relief targeted at long-settled undocumented immigrants, with Democrats (88-7%); Independents (81-16%); and Republicans (58-39%) each in support of “a proposal that provides Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and have been in this country for 20 years on average the ability to earn a work permit and protection from deportation.”

These margins are broadly consistent with a host of other recent polls that show near 3:1 and bipartisan support for immigration reform and relief targeted at long-settled immigrants (see here for a poll roundup). Despite years of relentless attacks on immigrants and immigration by Republicans, especially during the previous four years, the American people’s support of relief for undocumented immigrants remains at or near historic highs.

Bottom Line

At a time when our economic recovery depends on the hard work and contributions of all in America, it is imperative that the legislative package aimed at pulling America out of the pandemic includes immigrant workers and their families, many of whom are on the frontlines of dealing with the pandemic.

After 35 years of fighting for reform, it is our view that work permits and deportation protections in the House-passed bill will benefit millions of immigrants who are Americans in all but paperwork. Let’s get this done this year, and let’s continue the fight in the coming years until we win citizenship for all.