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This week, the Senate parliamentarian issued guidance against an initial plan to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented communities in congressional recovery legislation. The communities that would be protected by pathways to citizenship include Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders, essential workers, and farmworkers.

Unlike with most Senate bills, the parliamentarian offers procedural recommendations on bills that use the budget reconciliation process, which allows Congress to pass legislation with just 51 votes in the Senate and avoid a filibuster. All provisions in a budget reconciliation bill must have a significant budgetary impact. The guidance handed down by the parliamentarian was not a comprehensive restriction on citizenship eligibility in the recovery legislation; the parliamentarian responded to just one legislative option for citizenship protections. 

Pathways to Citizenship Meet Recovery Standards

While we are disappointed by this procedural delay, we remain confident about the viability of including a pathway to citizenship in the recovery legislation. A pathway to citizenship for undocumented communities directly impacts the federal budget. The parliamentarian’s advisory notes an impact of $140 billion on government costs.

We remain confident about the viability of including a pathway to citizenship in the recovery legislation.

The revenue effects of a pathway to citizenship also indicate the suitability of assessing citizenship protections in the recovery legislation. Economists project an increase of at least $1.5 trillion to the gross domestic product (GDP) and hundreds of dollars to individual earnings over ten years.

As our nation recovers from the harms of the pandemic, a pathway to citizenship promises economic recovery. Citizenship eligibility through the recovery package stands out as an appropriate and advantageous legislative avenue, especially because the process sidesteps the Senate filibuster. 

The Path Ahead

The parliamentarian’s recommendation is not the end for a pathway to citizenship. The question before Congress is how to include pathways to citizenship through recovery legislation, not can Congress enact the protection.

Senators cannot stop course now. The Senate parliamentarian could approve several other legislative strategies. Senate leaders are committed to proposing various provisions and legislative blueprints that could permit a pathway to citizenship in this year’s recovery legislation. 

The heart-wrenching uncertainty initially caused by the parliamentarian’s announcement underscores the need for Congress to establish long-lasting protections for undocumented individuals. We must end the fear and suffering experienced by our undocumented neighbors due to congressional inaction, unpredictable court rulings, and threatening executive actions.

Following the parliamentarian’s first guidance, our call to Congress is clear:

  • Pathways to citizenship are not off the table. Lawmakers must support permanent measures in the recovery legislation.
  • Senate leaders must ensure an acceptable strategy for including a pathway to citizenship in the recovery package. 

Advocate for Citizenship

Our faithful journey to seek a just immigration system continues. Both chambers of Congress continue to negotiate specifics for pathways to citizenship, and the final votes will be close. Every member of Congress must hear our resilient and firm support for our undocumented communities. Contact Congress now!

Anika Forrest

Anika Forrest

Legislative Manager, Immigration and Refugee Program
Anika Forrest leads FCNL’s immigration and refugee policy program. By integrating her knowledge of the legislative process, political advocacy, and public policy reform, she is working to protect the rights of all immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.

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