Democrats draw immigrants' ire after watering down amnesty provisions in budget bill

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House Democrats dropped plans for an expansive amnesty for illegal immigrants in their new budget proposal Wednesday, and instead called for a more tentative legal status for illegal immigrants that would block them from deportation but not offer a clear path to citizenship.

The move, which lawmakers had been hinting at, drew howls of protest from immigrant-rights activists who called it a betrayal of the promises President Biden and party leaders had made.

Under the new plan, illegal immigrants who arrived before 2011 would be granted “parole,” giving them a right to remain here for five years. They also will be granted work permits and permission to travel and to obtain coveted REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses.

That is similar to the DACA program that already exists for illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”

While millions of illegal immigrants would gain a more secure foothold, they, like the Dreamers, would not have a new dedicated path to citizenship — though ones who have citizen family members could adjust their status based on those ties.

Activists said they had been promised full citizenship, and said illegal immigrants have earned it by holding down jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“After four years of enduring the most anti-immigrant President in recent history, who sought out new and cruel ways to terrorize and rip apart families, immigrants need and deserve more than the temporary solutions and half-measures offered in this bill,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

But the United Farm Workers, another significant voice in the immigration debate, called the tentative status “real, tangible relief” for illegal immigrants. UFW backed the new proposal.

Democrats have characterized the watered-down version as the best they can do given the rules of Congress.

In order to avoid a GOP-led filibuster, they are tacking the immigration language onto their $1.75 trillion budget bill, but the budget rules only allow provisions centered on fiscal matters. The Senate parliamentarian has concluded that offering citizenship rights is too broad to fit under the rules.

Activists have blasted the parliamentarian’s decision and called it merely advisory. They want to see Democrats disregard the ruling and flex their control of the chamber to declare immigration allowed under the budget.

That would mean the broader amnesty could be included — but it also would derail the longstanding practice of deferring to the parliamentarian, deepening the already nasty political divisions on Capitol Hill.

The House Democrats’ bill does retain provisions that would greatly expand legal immigration.

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