Reconciling is in style. In Congress, budget reconciliation is at the center of the debate, as a mechanism to advance legislation through a simple majority, rather than with the sixty votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the face of zero Republican collaboration. And, there is a real effort to attach legalization measures for undocumented immigrants to the bill that would be considered under “reconciliation,’ if the inclusion of these measures is authorized.
In fact, Tuesday night Senate Democrats announced a deal among themselves regarding the reconciliation bill. Although details have not been formally given, it is inferred that it could include the legalization of Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries, farm workers, and possibly other essential workers. On Twitter Tuesday, Senator Alex Padilla of California announced that the Democrats took “a big step forward in making major investments in critical infrastructure for the American people—from climate to childcare to immigration.”
Although the process is fluid and nothing is confirmed, Senator Padilla’s very words cause the hopes of undocumented immigrants who have waited decade after decade for migration regularization to arise.
For those who question why they would try to include legalization measures in a budget proposal, there are innumerable data points, studies, and examples that prove not only the financial impact this segment of the population has, right now, through tax payments, including income and sales; buying homes, food, and clothing; opening businesses; or supporting the solvency of a Social Security program they will never get to benefit from, unless their status is regularized.
In fact, in a recent study, the Center for American Progress finds that legalizing a group comprised of Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries, and farm workers would result in no less than a $1.5 trillion increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), on top of creating some 400,800 new jobs in the coming decade.
That’s not all, of course, since those who are able to legalize will see a $4,300 salary increase in five years, a number that rises to $13,500 in ten years. In general, an increase in yearly salary for all U.S. Americans would be around $600.
And, that is without mentioning that undocumented immigrants already pay an average of $13 billion for Social Security each year and more than $3 billion for Medicare, according to data from New American Economy.
Basically, this would be a great opportunity to, once and for all, reconcile various realities: that undocumented immigrants already hold up the economy and legalizing them would be an even bigger national economic boon. And that despite the fact that Republican politicians exploit the topic, leaving out the true benefits of legalization, the American people, Democratic and Republican, according to various surveys, support a path to citizenship. They see it more pragmatically than politically.
In essence, a majority in the United States already realizes that what this is about is fortalizing the system that governs us, diversifying its achievements, making it function for future generations, guaranteeing its solvency, and injecting a bit of humanity into its constant economic evolution. To sum up all those pieces of the survival mechanism of the current United States: undocumented immigrants have been, are, and will be essential, much more than those Republicans who, due to their fanaticism, prefer to close their eyes to the reality that overwhelms and screams at them to open, now; otherwise, history will devour them.
Another reality to reconcile: that Democrats have to fulfill their campaign promises: the one about advancing immigration reform, which they repeat in every electoral cycle without any concrete result.
From there we see the importance of the reconciliation process, used since 1974 to advance budgetary measures in an expedited fashion and through a simple majority if it is determined that, in fact, such measures affect the revenues and expenses of the federal government.
Measures are only eligible for the budget reconciliation process if they comply with guidelines laid out in the so-called “Byrd Rule,” in honor of the late Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, who advanced this to ensure that budget reconciliation bills are not plagued with unrelated measures.
In recent history, budget reconciliation was used by the majority-Democratic Senate in 2010 to approve the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare and, in 2017, the majority-Republican Senate employed it to approve the Trump tax cuts.
The details and the outcome of a reconciliation bill with immigration measures on it are still unknown. But at least hope is emerging to legalize the sectors that are both fundamental and essential in the functioning of this complex and historic social experiment.