House Democrats Push Expanded Immigration Protection on Senate
Nearly half of all House Democrats on Monday, November 22, called on their Senate colleagues to augment the immigration protections in the House-passed Build Back Better Act before the Senate votes on it. In a letter led by Democratic Reps. Jesus Garcia (Ill.), Lou Correa (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), members urged Senate leaders to reinstate a pathway to citizenship in the Senate version of the Build Back Better Act.
The version of Build Back Better passed by the U.S. House includes a parole option, which would grant 6.5 million foreign nationals a temporary parole status that would grant them five-year work and travel permits but not permanent residency.
- The Hill (November 23, 2021): https://thehill.com/latino/582739-91-house-dems-call-on-senate-to-expandimmigration-protections-in-biden-spending-bill
U.S. House Passes “Build Back Better Act” Including Major Immigration Provisions
The House of Representatives passed the $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better Act” budget reconciliation bill, 220-213, on November 19, 2021. It includes $100 billion toward immigration measures, including provisions paving the way for employees and others waiting in backlogs, and increases in some immigration-related fees. It also would provide for up to 10 years of work authorization and protection from removal for undocumented people who have been living in the United States since before 2011, and $2.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to reduce processing backlogs. The House bill would also recapture more than 200,000 unused green cards that would otherwise expire each year.
In addition, it would provide for diversity visas for those refused a visa, prevented from seeking admission, or denied admission to the United States solely because of certain executive orders and limitations on visa processing, visa issuance, travel and other effects associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate will take up the bill next, likely in December. It remains to be seen whether the bill will become law in its current version or will be revised or defeated. Among various factors, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough earlier rejected several previous immigration-related provisions in the draft bill, such as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but observers believe some provisions may survive her scrutiny, such as one that would recover roughly 400,000 currently unused green cards.
Below are selected highlights of the House-passed version of the “Build Back Better Act”:
Green Card Provisions for Immigrants Waiting in Backlogs
The House bill’s provisions would allow an employee waiting for more than two years in the backlog of approved legal immigration applications to pay a supplemental fee of $5,000 and file for adjustment of status without waiting for a priority date to become available. Those with approved green card applications awaiting visa availability could pay $1,500 to essentially jump the queue and file for adjustment.
As noted above, the House bill would allow about seven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States since before 2011 to stay in the United States through parole, and to be eligible for work permits valid for five years (renewable once), authorization to travel, and driver’s licenses if they file an application and pay a fee. They could also apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. They would need to pass background checks.
Examples of supplemental immigration-related fees that would be imposed by the House bill, if passed, include:
- $100 for certain family-sponsored immigrant visa petitions (Forms I-130)
- $800 for each employment-based immigrant visa petition (Forms I-140) • $15,000 for each employment-based fifth preference petition (Forms I-526)
Source: ABIL Newsletter, November 21, 2021
- “Build Back Better Act” (most of the immigration-related provisions are on pp. 899–914), H.R. 5376, https://bit.ly/3HJ06Gs
- “President Biden Announces the Build Back Better Framework,” White House, Oct. 28, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/28/president-biden-announces-the-buildback-better-framework/
- House Democrats Just Passed Build Back Better—Here’s What’s Included,” CNBC, Nov. 19, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/19/house-dems-just-passed-build-back-betterheres-whats-included.html
- “How the House Spending Bill Sets a Path to Legalization for Undocumented Immigrants,” Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/11/19/immigration-biden-spending-bill/ (subscription)
- “What Will the Senate Do With the Build Back Better Bill?,” Time, Nov. 19, 2021, https://time.com/6121614/build-back-better-spending-bill-senate/
Unauthorized Immigrants to Get Temporary Parole Thanks to “Build Back Better”
The Build Back Better Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on November 19, would offer certain unauthorized immigrants a shot at temporary parole granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Immigrants who are granted parole are eligible to shop for health insurance subsidized by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act.
Unauthorized immigrants generally are not eligible for federal health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. A welfare reform law passed in 1996 restricted noncitizens’ access to federally funded health care, and the ACA, enacted in 2010, excluded unauthorized immigrants.
Some immigrants are eligible for the ACA and other federal health care programs if they have received a deferral of deportation. But the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program were specifically excluded from the ACA by former President Obama.
While immigrant rights advocates are hopeful about passage of the budget bill, which would offer parole to millions of unauthorized immigrants, they have also previously pushed legislation that tackles the issue of health care access head-on.
The Health Equity and Access under the Law for Immigrant Women and Families Act, dubbed the HEAL Act, was first floated in 2014 and was reintroduced earlier this year. It would allow “lawfully present” immigrants to enroll immediately in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, scrapping the current rule requiring individuals to wait five years after receiving “qualified” immigration status before enrolling. It would also allow DACA beneficiaries access to subsidized insurance under the ACA.
More Immigration Registrations Selected in USCIS’s Third Random Selection
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that on November 19, 2021, it selected additional registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption. This follows a second random selection in July 2021, after the initial selection in March.
USCIS said the petition filing period will begin November 22, 2021, and close on February 23, 2022. Those with selected registrations will receive a selection notice in their myUSCIS accounts with details about when and where to file.
Source: ABIL Newsletter, November 21, 2021
- USCIS alert, Nov. 19, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-conducts-third-random-selection-frompreviously-submitted-fy-2022-h-1b-cap-registrations
Dependent Spouses Receive Work Authorization Extensions
New Work Authorization Extensions Affect Form I-9 Completion for Certain Employees
Effective November 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) automatically extended work authorization for L-2 nonimmigrants who are the dependent spouses of L-1 nonimmigrants, and E nonimmigrants who are the dependent spouses of E-1, E-2, and E-3 nonimmigrants. USCIS also automatically extended work authorization for certain H-4 nonimmigrants who are dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants. Such individuals may receive automatic extensions of their employment authorization documents.
Source: ABIL Newsletter, November 21, 2021
- “New Requirements Affecting Form I-9 Completion for Certain Employees,” USCIS, Nov. 17, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/covid-19-form-i-9-related-news/new-requirements-affecting-form-i-9- completion-for-certain-employees
- “Automatic Extensions Based on a Timely Filed Application to Renew Employment Authorization and/or Employment Authorization Document,” Handbook for Employers, Nov. 16, 2021, USCIS, https://bit.ly/3FwnW6k