On Thursday, Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) and Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) held a press conference outside the Capitol urging for the passage of immigration provisions in the Build Back Better bill. They were joined by immigration advocates including Guillermo Garcia of United Farm Workers, Amparo Gonsalez de Portillo of Dreamers Moms in Action, nonprofit consultant Julio Calderon and TPS recipient and essential worker Maria Ana Vasquez.
“Congress must deliver this urgently needed relief in the form of work permits and deportation protections,” said Castro. “The time is now.”
The current version of the Build Back Better legislation includes a five-year “parole” period that would temporarily protect certain undocumented immigrants from deportation. Parole would allow immigrants who entered the United States prior to 2011 to receive work and travel permits as well as driver’s licenses and state identification cards.
However, the bill does not include the pathway to citizenship that many had hoped for. The Senate parliamentarian rejected efforts to pass a pathway to citizenship through reconciliation, and the Democrats lack the votes to overcome the filibuster.
Escobar acknowledged that work permits and protections without a pathway to citizenship were “wholly inadequate” but said it was still an “important step” to stabilize the situation of millions of immigrants. “While this is not everything we have wanted, God, let me tell you I will take and run with it,” said Escobar.
While the House passed Build Back Better on Friday, the immigration provisions still face hurdles in the Senate, where the bill will almost certainly change. The first issue is the question of whether the Senate rules will allow for immigration reform through reconciliation. To get around the Senate parliamentarian’s objection to including a pathway to citizenship, Democrats have crafted the provisions to avoid creating permanent legal protections that weren’t previously authorized by Congress.
There’s also the issue of getting all 50 Democratic senators on board with including immigration in Build Back Better. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) has recently voiced support for including immigration provisions, although Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-West Virginia) position is unclear.
“This was like a Rubik’s Cube trying to get all the provisions together,” said Castro. “You move one piece and there’s a constituency or a caucus in the House or the Senate that’s unhappy so it was a delicate balance.”