Democrats pitch economic benefits of legalizing 8 million undocumented immigrants

Border Report Tour

Judiciary Committee chair ready to tinker with bill should Senate parliamentarian toss out immigration provisions in $3.5 trillion spending bill

Immigration activist with the advocacy group CASA rally at the White House to demand President Biden to grant citizenship for immigrants on May 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. The group is calling on the Biden Administration to pass an immigrant inclusive recovery packages that includes citizenship for immigrant essential workers. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Democrats on the House Committee on the Judiciary remain confident the immigration provisions in the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill will pass procedural scrutiny. This, even as Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough requests more supporting documentation to allow the items into the reconciliation process.

“We are very hopeful that the Senate parliamentarian will approve this package,” U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said in a Zoom call Tuesday. “She has asked for additional information, which will be provided later this week.”

Lofgren is a member of the committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.

The Democrats are trying to provide legal permanent residence in the United States to undocumented immigrants brought in as children, to farm and essential workers, and those admitted under the Temporary Protected Status after natural disasters in their countries. The plan would legalize up to 8 million unauthorized immigrants.

House and Senate Republicans say such sweeping immigration changes don’t belong in an infrastructure spending bill.

But Lofgren said this isn’t the first time that immigration-related measures have been included in a reconciliation package. A provision dealing with a visa backlog passed budget reconciliation in 2005, though it was ultimately taken out during the conference process.

U.S. Zoe Lofgren, D-California

“The question is, would these measures have an economic impact that is less than just incidental? And on this, that is the case,” Lofgren said.

Democrats say legalizing the 8 million immigrants will add $1.5 trillion to the economy over the next 10 years, as those immigrants will pay more federal, state, local and payroll taxes and push up overall wages.

House Majority Whip U.S. Rep. James Enos Clyburn, D-South Carolina, says legalization belongs in budget reconciliation.

“We talk about a $121 billion per year contribution to our GDP. That says to me that it qualifies for reconciliation. What we’re trying to do is making sure the economic impact is something beyond incidental. This is way, way beyond incidental,” he said.

With solid Republican opposition in both houses of Congress, political analysts say budget reconciliation is the only way for Democrats to fulfill promises of immigration reform made to voters in the last election. Once admitted in the spending package, a simple majority vote and President Biden’s signature seal the deal.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas

“Here are the facts. By passing our component of immigration, by placing in reconciliation, what we are doing is providing permanent residence for America’s ‘Dreamers,’ TPS holders and essential workers, giving them a pathway to citizenship,” said Subcommittee Member U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “What that will do for our country is open up our economy.”

She said the immigrants, once fully integrated into the economy, will complement the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

“We’ve done a great job so far with all of the packages that have helped people survive through the pandemic, but by building back better with immigrants we are going to see them contribute an added $149 billion in spending power every year. That results in $131 billion in combined federal payroll state and local taxes,” she said. “It’s in our best interests that we do this.”

Should the parliamentarian decide to exclude immigration from the spending package, Lofgren said the committee majority will try again.

“Should there be a concern about the package that we put together, we have additional ways to structure the relief that we would then be able to present to her,” Lofgren said. “We think the package that we acted on last night is sound and covers the bases that needed to be covered, and we are very hopeful it will be accepted by the parliamentarian.”

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