As a House vote on the massive Democratic spending bill approaches, Republicans are sounding the alarm about sweeping immigration measures that have frequently been overlooked amid broader debates about the cost of the legislation and infighting among Democrats.
The Build Back Better Act is expected to receive a vote in the House as early as this week, as Democratic leadership seeks to advance the legislation alongside a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The spending bill includes broad provisions on health care, child care, climate change and taxes – and has seen broad and united Republican opposition.
But, as the vote nears, lawmakers are seeking also to point to potentially more consequential immigration provisions in the legislation.
Perhaps the biggest component of the bill on immigration is an amnesty provision for millions of illegal immigrants – which is still in flux due to rules on the Senate side involving the budget reconciliation process and what can be allowed by the chamber’s parliamentarian.
In its current form in the House text as of last week, it would grant legal status to illegal immigrants present in the country before 2010, by changing the date of a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that granted it to anyone in the country illegally before 1972.
Democrats have also mulled full-blown pathways to citizenship for groups of immigrants who came in as recently as 2020, but they have been shot down by the parliamentarian multiple times – although some progressive lawmakers in the House have urged the party to ignore the parliamentarian completely.
The Capitol is seen under cloud cover in Washington, Tuesday, May 11, 2021
The Capitol is seen under cloud cover in Washington, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In the Senate currently, Democrats are working on a “Plan C” that would involve giving humanitarian parole – used typically on a case-by-case basis – to an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants.
In whatever form it may eventually take, Republicans have been fuming against any kind of amnesty, particularly given the crisis at the southern border – which they say it would encourage. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote to Biden last month warning against the inclusion of any such language in the bill that may go to his desk.
“As the Republican Leader in the House of Representatives, I am opposed to any mass amnesty provisions as part of the reconciliation bill currently being debated among members of your party,” he said.
“By passing amnesty and other federal benefits for illegal immigrants into law, you will be encouraging even larger numbers of illegal migration. This policy would make the border crisis even worse.”
In the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned in a video Thursday that “every time this country has done any sort of immigration law changes, by executive order or by law, all it does is increase illegal immigration because people misinterpret it and think. ‘There’s a new law, now I can come.'”
“We already have a major crisis at the border. And instead of spending money on enforcing the law, they’re actually inviting more people to come illegally,” he said.
But the bill is also significant in terms of its effects on legal immigration. Specifically, it includes provisions to “recapture” green cards from past fiscal years. This would take the difference between the number of green cards authorized by Congress and the number actually given out for each year and make that number of green cards automatically available. The House bill does this all the way back until 1992.
It is a provision that has been a request by not only immigrant activist groups but also by Big Tech-backed groups like FWD.us as the employment visas would overwhelmingly affect tech workers from India and China who have come in via temporary visas but are facing a backlog of green card applications.
The language included in the bill would likely lead to hundreds of thousands of green cards being made immediately available. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on how 80,000 green cards were set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2021 alone, and reporting how Silicon Valley giants have made changing green card processing a priority – and are feeling pressure from their employees.
Additionally, the bill allows some immigrants to be exempt from numerical green card caps (such as per country caps) and be given a green card if they have submitted an application and were approved for more than two years and if they pay a fee. The measure would be in place until 2031. The Republican Study Committee memo claimed the measures would “flood” America with “cheap foreign graduates” into middle-class careers.
Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., meanwhile, wrote to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., last week, urging him to oppose what he called “the crown jewel of corporate lobbying.”
“These provisions will allow Facebook, Microsoft, Google and numerous other technology companies across America to employ a functionally limitless supply of cheap foreign labor in place of willing, able and qualified American workers,” he wrote.
“It will also mean American workers currently employed by these companies will be far less likely to see wage gains or increased compensation because employers will have the leverage to easily replace them at less cost with workers imported from overseas.”
He has continued to appeal to Democrats on this issue, challenging members of Congress who are supportive of the measures, and asking: “Will @POTUS and every congressional Dem sell out American workers to please Big Tech?”
House Democrats have been working on the final text of the bill, but Fox News has been told there is a scramble to finalize the bill text and potentially add limited prescription drug provisions and family leave provisions – meaning it could slip later into the week.