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Immigration reform providing temporary protection for undocumented immigrants stalled

The Biden-Harris administration’s latest attempt at improving US immigration policies, which included protection for undocumented immigrants, was unsuccessful

Tackling immigration reform is no easy feat. Even for a Presidential administration with a positive outlook on immigrants, the road is paved with obstacles. Part of President Joe Biden’s immigration reform plans were included in the Build Back Better Act – an extensive bill covering social and climate change issues. One of the goals of this bill was to provide protection for undocumented immigrants. However, the bill was rejected by the Senate Parliamentarian for the third time in a row.

What happened to the immigration reform bill?

The immigration reform bill had already passed by the Lower House of Congress last November (2021) and was yet to be passed by the Senate. The Democratic Party was trying to pass the bill through a special process called budget reconciliation. This way, the otherwise lengthy legal process would have been significantly shortened. However, the proposal was rejected by the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough.

This is the third time that the Senate Parliamentarian has rejected the proposal to include immigration reform within the Build Back Better framework. According to MacDonough, the proposed immigration policy changes are not related to the budget, and therefore cannot be passed through budget reconciliation. Although Democrats are persistent in their effort to improve the situation of undocumented immigrants, it seems they will have to pursue this goal through other means.

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What measures were included in the bill?

Amongst the bill’s proposals was a temporary “parole” status that would have been granted to undocumented immigrants that had arrived in the US before 2011. These are people who have been living and working in the US for more than a decade now. It would have shielded them from the threat of immediate deportation and would also have given them the authorization to work while they sorted out their immigration situation.

Around 6.5 million people would have been able to benefit from this measure. Furthermore, those with immediate US Citizen family members willing to sponsor them would have been able to apply for a green card.

What does the immigration reform mean for undocumented immigrants?

For the time being, there will be no change regarding the situation of undocumented immigrants. They remain at risk of deportation and unable to seek lawful employment. This is particularly worrisome for families with mixed immigration status, as children with US citizenship might be separated from their parents in case of deportation.

Another common concern for undocumented immigrants is workplace safety and labor rights: stuck between a rock and a hard place, they are less likely to report unsafe situations and right violations in fear of reprisal.

What can I do if this situation affects me or a loved one?

As disheartening as this news is, we should focus on the positive aspect: an attempt is being made to improve the situation of millions of people whose only goal is to live and work in the United States. Even if no changes have been possible at this stage, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any in the future. In the meantime, an experienced lawyer will know how to help you or your loved ones sort out your legal status within the current legal landscape.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal advice regarding this matter, Connie Kaplan’s team is more than ready to set up a private consultation to assess your situation. Our team is fluent in many languages, including Spanish – and we also know what it’s like to be on your side of the issue. Reach out to us today and we’ll do our best to help you with your case.

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