Visa Crunch

In a major setback for green card aspirants, the immigration reforms fail to find place in the reconciliation bill in the US parliament

US Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has declared that immigration improvements advocated by the Democrats cannot be included in the reconciliation package, which is a blow to Indians stuck in a decades-long green card backlog.

The Democrats had hoped to use this bill to propose immigration improvements, such as allowing those stuck in green card backlogs to pay an additional fee and earn legal permanent status (aka green cards). Dreamers would have been given a path to citizenship under the measure (including aged out children of parents who held work visas such as H-1B).

President Joe Biden, Congressional Democrats, and their allies in the pro-immigration and progressive groups will be hurt by MacDonough’s decision, the Senate’s unbiased interpreter of its frequently mysterious rules.

MacDonough, who has served as the Senate Parliamentarian since 2012, is notable for not being an elected official. Hers is a consultative position. Democrats pushed for immigration reform through a reconciliation (budget) bill since it just required a simple majority and was immune to the filibuster provision, which required at least 60 Republican votes. For the Democrats, however, it’s back to the drawing board, as they appear to be working on a Plan B.

“We are deeply disappointed in the Parliamentarian’s decision, but the fight for immigration reform will continue,” said US Senate majority whip Dick Durbin, who is also chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Alex Padilla, who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Security. Alternative ideas have been submitted by Senate Democrats for the Parliamentarian to consider in the coming days.” An alternative available, according to Cyrus Mehta, a New York-based immigration attorney, is to use a provision known as the registry, which would allow anyone present in the US prior to a particular date to become a legal permanent resident.

According to immigration lawyer Greg Siskind, the Vice President has the right to overrule the Parliamentarian. Posts on social media are awash with calls for the Parliamentarian’s dismissal. However, it appears that this stance was anticipated, as Plan B is expected to be released soon. Another law, the American Children’s Act, offers legal dreamers a road to citizenship.

This bill, which was introduced in the Senate just a few days ago, aims to safeguard documented dreamers from losing their legal immigration status when they turn 21, as well as allowing them to work once they reach the age of 16. Meanwhile, a White House official told Fox News that President Biden has stated that he supports the attempt to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and that Democrats are expected to submit a fresh plan for the Senate Parliamentarian to review.

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