Congress is moving to include a path to citizenship for major subsets of the immigrant population in the jobs and human infrastructure package. Democratic leadership expects to enact this package through the budget reconciliation process, which will require only a simple majority vote to pass the Senate. Months of bipartisan talks on legalization legislation have failed to yield a viable compromise despite overwhelming public support for these measures across parties; budget reconciliation will almost certainly be the only legislative option for making overdue progress on these issues. We encourage you to join us in advocating for these provisions to remain in the package as the legislative process unfolds over the next several months.

Read more about that progress and other federal developments this month:

Senate includes a path to citizenship in the budget resolution

This month, Senate Budget Chairman Sanders released the first draft of the FY22 budget resolution that reflects the investments President Biden called for in the American Jobs and American Families plans. The preliminary document is circulating on Capitol Hill although the final contours of the resolution — and the subsequent implementing legislation — will be shaped through bi-cameral Congressional negotiations and debate over the next several months. That said, the initial 6-trillion-dollar proposal includes a pathway to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship for:

  • Approximately 4.4 million Dreamers — including 700,000 DACA recipients — and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders. For both groups, only legislation can provide a permanent solution and resolve the uncertainty created by pending and recent court cases:
  • DACA recipients are still waiting on a decision from a federal judge in Texas that jeopardizes the future of the program.
  • The Supreme Court ruled this month that immigrants who enter the United States without authorization and are subsequently granted TPS do not become eligible to seek permanent residency.
  • An estimated 1.2 million undocumented farm workers. A terrible Supreme Court decision this month severely restricted the ability of union organizers to meet with farm workers and advocate for better working conditions and fair pay. The ruling highlights the imperative of empowering undocumented farm workers to protect their rights by creating a path to citizenship.
  • Upwards of 5 million essential workers. About 74% of undocumented immigrants are considered essential workers: the American economy is dependent on undocumented labor and extending eligibility for a path to citizenship would finally recognize their contributions.

There is some uncertainty in how the legislation will delineate qualifying populations and there are substantial numbers of people who fit into multiple categories. Nonetheless, we can confidently estimate that the current proposal would extend a path to citizenship to more than 6 million people in total.

Inclusion of all these groups in the initial draft of the budget resolution is a testament to the relentless, strategic advocacy of so many partners. However, it remains to be seen if the Senate Parliamentarian will agree with us — and Majority Leader Schumer and Chairman Sanders — that legalization has a direct impact on the budget and can be passed through the reconciliation process, which bypasses the 60-vote threshold imposed by the archaic Senate filibuster.

There is clear precedent for including these types of measures: a 2005 reconciliation package expanded the number of green cards that could be allocated annually to employment and family-based immigrants. The measures would generate powerful economic benefits to offset the direct fiscal costs associated with legalization legislation: a path to citizenship for the aforementioned groups would increase the U.S. GDP by a cumulative $1.5 trillion over a decade, raise wages for all Americans, and create more than 400,000 new jobs.

Bills that would grant citizenship to all three groups (the Dream & Promise Act, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act) have been debated for months and the first two have passed the House with bipartisan support. Senate Republicans have made clear that they intend to filibuster these bills despite their support by a supermajority of voters across the political spectrum. Reconciliation provides an alternative legislative path — one that America must pursue after decades of political obstruction.

Family reunifications pick up speed

The Family Reunification Task Force submitted its initial progress report to the White House at the start of this month, at which point seven families had been reunified and 29 reunifications were lined up for the coming weeks. Now, nearly all of those reunifications have occurred, and the task force has established processes to help accelerate the effort in the coming months.

There is certainly a long way to go — nearly 4,000 separated children have been identified by the task force. Because of the Trump Administration’s intentionally poor record keeping during zero tolerance, government officials, advocates, and litigators are left with little information to locate many of the separated family members.

For the families who are reunified despite those hurdles, the impact is impossible to overstate. While most families ask for limited media exposure during these very personal moments, the available public footage offers a glimpse into the emotional weight these reunifications carry. Al Otro Lado, one of the primary litigators and advocates working with the task force, posted a video of one such reunification this month.

The Biden Administration ends Remain in Mexico and is considering ending Title 42

On June 1, the Biden Administration formally ended the Remain in Mexico program, which forced asylum seekers to await their court dates on the Mexican side of the border. President Biden paused the program soon after taking office; since then, over 11,000 migrants who were enrolled in the program have been allowed to enter the country to pursue their asylum claims.

Shortly after the program’s official termination, the administration moved to begin processing the next phase of migrants who were denied their right to seek asylum. The administration is giving nearly 28,000 migrants who were deported “in absentia” after missing their asylum hearing an opportunity to reopen their case. Many people missed their hearing because conditions were too dangerous to cross the border, because they had been assaulted or kidnapped by cartels, or because they were never effectively notified; some were denied entry into the U.S. because they were pregnant. For now, cases will be reopened on a painstaking case-by-case basis, but the review system could eventually grow and allow people to apply for reconsideration after being unjustly deported.

However, as the government works through a backlog of people denied their right to apply for asylum under Remain in Mexico, asylum seekers continue to be turned away at the border under Title 42 — a policy that uses the coronavirus pandemic as justification to expel migrants arriving at the border without due process. As vaccination rates climb, the already-shaky public health rationale for the policy is becoming increasingly hard to defend and the White House is considering ending Title 42 for migrant families as soon as July 31. There is currently no plan to end the policy for single adults, a sticking point for many in the advocacy community.

Vice President Harris travels to the Northern Triangle

Vice President Harris’ efforts to address the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle took on new visibility this month. Her trip to the region set several initiatives in motion, including anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala, shipment of 500,000 surplus doses of the COVID vaccine, and investments in labor protections for Mexican workers. Weeks later, she visited the U.S.-Mexico border as an extension of that work.

Under Harris’ leadership, this administration is building a comprehensive strategy for transformational change in the region that includes durable, innovative investments, new migration management models, and a path to citizenship for immigrants here in the U.S. Despite the obvious complexity of the issues and decades of U.S. neglect and regional dysfunction, the GOP is leaning hard into fear-based narratives of a “border crisis” with the singular goal of scoring political points against Harris personally and Democrats broadly.

In Texas, Governor Abbott is taking that strategy to new heights: he declared a state of disaster for Texas border counties and encouraged those localities to increase their immigrant detention capacity (several counties opted out of that designation). The governor also ordered childcare regulators to revoke licenses from all facilities housing unaccompanied migrant children (in response, the Biden Administration threatened to sue). And on June 30, the governor met with Donald Trump to hold a Fox news town hall in Texas about the border. Strong counter-programming by many of our partners made the stakes clear: a reversion to Trump’s policies of cruelty and chaos or progress toward a safe, humane, and orderly system.

This embrace of Trump’s nativism has become one of the Republican Party’s central electoral strategies. Regardless of whether this strategy is successful in rallying their base in the short term, the steep, long-term costs will be measured in national division, normalized authoritarianism, and fractured democratic norms.

Over the next few months, we will be doing everything we can to realize the goal that has been at the heart of the immigrant rights movement for decades: creating a path to citizenship for the undocumented. We will keep you informed as the legislative process unfolds, and we are grateful for your partnership as we collectively seize this moment of opportunity.

In solidarity,

Marshall Fitz

Managing Director of Immigration at the Emerson Collective. Advocate for humanity, sports junky, 1/2-assed Buddhist, proud papa and spouse. Views obv my own.