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Biden Budget Includes Immigration Reform, But No Citizenship Pathway

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Friday, October 29, 2021   

SEATTLE -- The Biden administration has released a slimmed-down spending proposal that includes $100 billion for immigration reform.

The latest Build Back Better plan added up to about $1.75 trillion, excluding immigration funds, because the administration is waiting to hear if the Senate parliamentarian agrees it can be included in the budget reconciliation process.

Alizeh Bhojani, immigration policy manager for OneAmerica, a Washington state-based immigration advocacy group, is glad the Biden administration has recognized immigration as a priority, but is disappointed the latest proposal does not include a pathway to citizenship.

"What we're hearing loudly and clearly from our communities is that we need permanent protections," Bhojani asserted. "Particularly since immigrants are the ones who are the front-line workers, were out in the field, kept this country going through a pandemic."

The Biden administration said the $100 billion in the current budget framework would be used to reduce backlogs in the immigration asylum system and expand legal representation at the border. Republicans say immigration reform needs to address larger issues at the border, which they describe as in crisis.

Bhojani pointed out the Senate parliamentarian has been a source of frustration, twice ruling pathways to citizenship for some people should not be included in the budget reconciliation package because its policy impact outweighs the budget impact.

Bhojani emphasized OneAmerica has spoken with grassroots leaders in the state about these setbacks.

"The first and only thing we hear is, 'How is an unelected official obstructing the legislative process like this?'" Bhojani remarked.

States are limited in how they can support undocumented immigrants, but Bhojani acknowledged Washington state has been able to support folks with COVID-19 aid.

"When you have a federal government that is hostile to communities, states have had to do a lot of heavy lifting," Bhojani contended. "So for example, the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund was a huge victory for getting cash support to undocumented workers when federal relief explicitly excluded them."

She noted the Senate can overrule or ignore the Senate parliamentarian. In the meantime, she stressed OneAmerica will continue its efforts to add the citizenship pathway to the budget reconciliation package.


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