Immigration Solutions

Immigration in the Build Back Better Act

Work permit / Travel Permit program:

The House provision would grant at least 7 million undocumented immigrants “parole,” formally admitting them into the United States if they file an application, pay a fee and pass background checks.

Then they would be eligible to apply for permits, authorization to travel outside of the United States, and driver’s licenses.

To qualify, immigrants must have arrived before Jan. 1, 2011, and lived here ever since.

Work permits would be valid for five years and could be renewed one time, extending protections through September 2031.

Nearly 65 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States would be protected from deportation for up to a decade.

Roughly 7 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for work permits, permission to travel abroad, and benefits like state driver’s licenses, a major step for immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and other countries who remain vulnerable to being deported.

This relief includes protection from deportation and authorization to work, as well as access to life-saving health care and the ability to travel abroad to see family.

Priority Date Visa Bulletin Backlog

The Build Back Better Act would also modernize the immigration system by recapturing unused visas and reducing backlogs that are keeping immigrants and their families waiting decades for green cards.

More than 5 million individuals who have started the green card process are stuck waiting for a visa number to be available, including nearly 1 million employment-based immigrants already living and working in the United States. 

According to congressional staff familiar with the proposal, more than 400,000 family- and employment-based visa numbers are likely available for recapture which, paired with early filing and cap exemptions, would be a significant step in reducing the backlogs.

This legislation would not increase green card numbers, nor would it make anyone eligible for a green card who does not already qualify; it would simply ensure that visa numbers authorized in previous years are accounted for and ultimately used.

It would also correct the legislative formula to ensure that all future visa numbers are actually used.

What’s Next:

The Senate is expected to turn to the legislation after it returns next week from Thanksgiving recess.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Saturday that he hopes to pass the bill by Christmas.

The Risks:

The policy will have to comply with the Senate budget rules.

The parliamentarian, who is likely to have the last word, has rejected two previous immigration provisions by Democrats that would offer a path to citizenship, which the House bill policy wouldn’t guarantee.

Some Democratic House members say the party should include an immigration provision no matter what, but Senator Manchin has signaled that he wants to abide by the parliamentarian’s advice, and alienating him would endanger the bill’s chances of passing.

Senator Joe Manchin wields outsized influence in Washington DC because he holds the deciding vote in an evenly split Senate.

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