Things have changed in the last version of President Joe Biden’s social services and environmental bill, adding a new paid family leave program, immigrant work permits, and a state-and-local tax break to it.
The bill – which basically is a framework for Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) agenda – was released on October 28 after weeks of back and forth. It includes $1.75 trillion of investments to extend health care coverage, combat climate change, alleviate child poverty, and other priorities set by the Democrats.
“The Build Back Better framework will set the U.S. on course to meet our climate targets, create millions of good-paying jobs and grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said while releasing the bill.
He, in an attempt to push immigration overhaul stalled in Congress, proposed devoting $100 billion to protect millions of undocumented immigrants.
This newly added immigration provision would create a new program for about seven million immigrants. The purpose is to allow the people living in the U.S. illegally for years to apply for five-year work and travel permits within the U.S.
Addressing the immigration issue was one of the daunting challenges that Biden faced while finishing up the draft of the domestic policy bill. After setting aside $100 billion for immigration reform, the total amount of the package has been increased to $1.85 trillion.
According to the White House official website, “… a $100 billion investment will improve our immigration system by providing long-awaited relief to millions through reconciliation, and making enhancements to reduce backlogs, expand legal representation, and make the asylum system and border processing more efficient and humane.”
The immigration aspect of the bill emphasizes facilitating law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have been living in the U.S. continuously since first January 2011 to adjust their status and gain a pathway to citizenship.
The bill also includes a backup plan for expanding the Homeland Security secretary’s authority to grant a temporary status or parole to illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a decade. The agency will also be able to provide such undocumented immigrants with work permits and shield them from deportation. Initially, the work permits would be issued for five years that could be renewed for another five years.
When Biden’s BBB framework came to the surface, many criticized the President for failing to fulfill his election promise of reforming the immigration system. They believed that this bill provides just a temporary status that would give undocumented immigrants work and travel permits – not a pathway to citizenship, which Biden had promised.
However, one needs to understand that from the very first day, Democrats have been looking for ways to take some tangible measures on immigration, as in the words of Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif: “We have to have something for our immigrants.” However, strict budget rules that limit what can be included and what not have been barricading them to initiate any visible measures.
Also, legislation is a lengthy process and it’s been more than 30 years since Congress passed immigration reform. We have to count on Biden. Sooner or later, he will do what needs to be done.