90 House Dems Call on Senate to Return Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants
A group of 90 Democrats in the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Senate on Monday requesting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants be written into President Joe Biden's Build Back Better bill.
The letter, helmed by New York Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez was addressed to the three highest-ranking members of the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
In the letter, numerous influential House Democrats urged the Senate to include legislation in the bill that would allow certain undocumented immigrants to seek citizenship, including essential workers and Dreamers.
House Democrats did include a provision in the Build Back Better act that allows these undocumented immigrants to apply for five-year work permits. However, an actual route towards citizenship was not something that was included in the House's version of the bill.
"One need look no further than previous CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scores for the same proposal to know that providing a pathway to citizenship would have a massive budgetary impact," the letter said.
"When Congress promises 'immigration reform', as it has done throughout the negotiation process, our party must fully deliver on that promise," the letter continued.
The letter added that while these immigrants have consistently been granted temporary status allowing them to stay in the U.S., Build Back Better as it stands would only extend these statuses without solving the immigration issue.
Also addressed was the stance of Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. The parliamentarian is responsible for upholding and interpreting Senate rules and procedures.
MacDonough has stated, contrary to the CBO's report, that this immigration reform would not have any significant budget impact. Despite this, the House letter noted that the role of the parliamentarian is simply to advise, and the Senate is not required to uphold her opinion.
"As we laid out [in a previous letter], both federal law and Senate precedent provide that the Senate's Presiding Officer can issue a different binding ruling on such a parliamentary point of order," the letter said. "We cannot let an unelected advisor determine which promises we fulfill and which we do not, especially when the vast majority of Americans—in both parties—want us to provide a pathway to citizenship."
The Congressional Research Service has also written in the past that "the parliamentarians and their deputies/assistants only offer advice that the presiding Representative or Senator may accept or reject."
While the House Democrats continue to urge the Senate to go against the parliamentarian, such an occurrence is rare.
As President of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris has the ultimate authority to rebuke the opinion of the parliamentarian. However, a vice president has not overruled a parliamentarian since 1975.
Despite this, House Democrats continue to push for immigration reform in the Build Back Better bill. It is unknown yet, though, if Senate Democrats plan on including such legislation in their version of the bill.
Experts agree that the bill as it passed in the House will likely undergo a series of changes to appease senators that are on the fence. This would cause the bill to return to the House for yet another vote.
Newsweek reached out to Senate Majority Leader Schumer's office for comment.