Senate Parliamentarian Forces Democrats to Seek New Pathway to Citizenship

In a disappointing turn of events for the immigrant community, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the Democrats’ plan to legalize over 7 million undocumented immigrants couldn’t be passed via budget reconciliation. As we’ve mentioned on our blog, budget reconciliation might have helped the Democrats overcome the near-deadlock in the Senate to pass massive immigration reform. However, the Democrats have a few more options available to them in order to win immigration rights for undocumented people.

“She gave her view on only one approach on including a pathway to citizenship in reconciliation,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, the senior New Jersey Senator. “And it is my expectation that my colleagues and I will be going back to the parliamentarian with other options in the coming days.”

The ruling was not without controversy. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough was an immigration lawyer, and one of her many arguments in the ruling stated that the Democrats’ plan was more political than financial (despite numerous financial portions of the bill). Critics of the ruling said it was unclear how MacDonough arrived at her conclusion, as the line between “financial policy” and “politics” can be unclear.

Making a Statute of Limitations on Unauthorized Entry

Still, leading Democrats are hopeful that the new plan will prevail. One possibility is changing the registry date for certain undocumented immigrants and beneficiaries of TPS. This would essentially create a statute of limitations for past unauthorized entries, and it wouldn’t actually require changing the law—it would only update the registry date.

For example, if you changed to registry date to January 1, 2015, any undocumented people who have been in the country since that date would be eligible for permanent residency. The debate around the registry date would be about when someone is eligible for permanent residency, not if. The only trade-off is that it wouldn’t target any specific groups of immigrants, like Dreamers. Some Dreamers would be allowed to apply for a green card; others wouldn’t.

The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett Esq., P.C. will be following this development closely. If you have questions about your immigration matter, call (800) 909-8129 or contact our New Jersey immigration lawyers online to schedule a confidential consultation.