Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, D-Ill., said Tuesday he won’t back a reconciliation bill without a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, drawing a firm line on a requirement that House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth has already said isn’t likely to meet reconciliation rules.
Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and can’t afford to lose many votes on a budget reconciliation package that could include trillions of dollars for party priorities like child care, climate action and education. Yarmuth said last month that granting permanent legal status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program participants probably wouldn’t have enough budgetary impact to pass muster.
"We’re looking at what could be done,” the Kentucky Democrat said. “So there’s some things we think we probably can pass the Byrd rule, but a lot can’t.”
The Byrd rule refers to the Senate, where budget reconciliation rules are stricter than those in the House. They include six provisions within the Byrd rule that any package must comply with. One provision says elements of the bill cannot have a “merely incidental” impact on the budget. The rule also doesn’t allow changes to Social Security spending or revenue in a reconciliation bill.
Yarmuth said efforts to address the backlogged immigration system, reunify families and increase border security with more spending have a better chance.
“You bring in a lot of new people who are working, that has a pretty significant impact on the budget,” he said. “I think you can probably do some of that.”
García said providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, temporary protected status holders, undocumented farmworkers and essential workers is necessary for a full economic recovery from the pandemic.
“A robust and equitable budget reconciliation deal must include a pathway to citizenship for immigrants — our country can’t make a full recovery without it, and I can’t support any deal that leaves so many people in my district behind,” he said in a statement.
It’s not unprecedented for reconciliation legislation to touch on immigration. The 1996 welfare overhaul law, which passed through budget reconciliation, restricted the eligibility of certain groups of immigrants for federal benefits.
And a 2005 bill passed in the Senate through reconciliation would have “recaptured” unused visas from prior years and raised visa fees, though some of those provisions were ultimately stripped from the bill during the conference process.
Although most Democrats — including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer have signaled openness to the inclusion of immigration provisions in a budget reconciliation bill, García is the first to say he won’t support a bill that doesn’t include them.
The bill is still in the earliest of stages: the topline number has not been finalized, and there isn’t yet legislative text.
Garcia’s colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are pushing for immigration provisions, but without a determination on whether their support of the future reconciliation bill turns on that distinction.
“Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair [Raul] Ruiz supports the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, farmworkers, TPS holders, and essential workers in budget reconciliation to advance our economic recovery from the pandemic, create new jobs, raise wages, and grow our GDP,” a spokeswoman in the California lawmaker’s office said. “As negotiations continue, he remains steadfast in the CHC's ‘all of the above, every which way’ approach to achieving immigration reform.”