US immigration advocates say millions are at risk as reforms face uphill battle amid intense Republican opposition.
Legislators in the US House of Representatives this month advanced President Joe Biden’s ambitious $1.75-trillion domestic spending plan, which aims to expand the nation’s social safety net and combat climate change over the next 10 years.
Members of Biden’s Democratic Party had tried to include provisions in the legislation that would have provided a path to citizenship to an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
But amid intense Republican opposition and Senate rules that prevent major policy changes on budget measures, congressional leaders instead included in the Build Back Better Act (BBB) a provision that would give undocumented migrants “parole”.
That is a temporary status that would shield people from deportation and give them US work permits, but falls short of granting them a pathway to citizenship – something immigrant advocates have pointed out Biden promised to do.
While the parole provision may be changed or scrapped altogether when the legislation gets to the US Senate, advocates say the issue demonstrates just how challenging it is to pass comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.
“I haven’t given up on including immigration legislation in the reconciliation bill because it’s been more than 30 years since Congress passed immigration reform and people are counting on us,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said in a recent tweet. “With the BBB framework, we have an opportunity to address this lapse in leadership.”
What is parole?
Parole dates back to 1952 and was recently used to bring 65,000 Afghan refugees into the US after the Taliban took over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in August.
Under the BBB bill’s proposal, approximately 6.8 million undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US before 2011 would be eligible to receive parole. The designation would give them protection from deportation for a period of five years, work permits, permission to travel abroad and the ability to get drivers’ licenses.