House Democrats are defending the sweeping immigration provisions included in the Build Back Better Act, claiming that the plan to grant work permits and protection from deportation to millions of illegal immigrants is "not amnesty."
"No matter how many times Republicans say it, this provision is not amnesty," the fact sheet from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, obtained by Bloomberg News, reads.
The immigration portion of the current House version of the massive spending bill – which Democrats are hoping to get through Congress via the slim majority in the House and the budget reconciliation process in the Senate – includes a provision to give parole to approximately 7 million illegal immigrants.
Parole, which federal law says is to be used on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarians reasons or significant public benefit, would be used to give illegal immigrants protections if they were in the country before 2011 and are either recipients of Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or are deemed "essential workers."
It would give parole for up until Sept. 2031 and would require them to pass background checks and don’t have serious criminal records. It is the latest effort by Republicans to try and get protections past the Senate parliamentarian — who has shot down two broader citizenship pathways for illegal immigrants on the basis that it is not appropriate for a budget reconciliation bill.
Due to its temporary nature, Democrats argue that this means it cannot be classified as "amnesty."
"Republicans are quick to disparage any immigration legislation as amnesty," the fact sheet says. "This legislation provides an opportunity for certain undocumented individuals to receive temporary protection from removal and a work permit."
Additionally, the fact sheet lays out the provisions on legal immigration. Included in those includes a move to "recapture" green cards that were authorized by Congress but never distributed, all the way back to 1992. The Democrats estimate that it would lead to making available 222,000 family-based green cards and 157,000 employment based visas. Additionally it would allow exemptions from numerical caps for those waiting for green cards if they have been waiting for more than two years.
Some Republicans have objected to those measures, noting that it would benefit foreign workers in tech industries — and that it has been lobbied for by Big Tech companies like Apple and Facebook.
"At a time when we are actively encouraging students in our home states to work hard, seek STEM skills and aspire to the high-tech jobs of tomorrow, this legislation would create an unending, permanent pipeline of foreign labor for Silicon Valley giants to use in place of aspiring American youth," Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said in an op-ed for The Hill.
The fact sheet itself includes data from FWD.us – a non-profit set up by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to lobby for immigration reform – to argue that illegal immigrants who are given work permits would increase their contributions to the national economy by $17 billion annually.
The Democrats argue that the provisions "will accelerate our economic recovery."
"By adding workers to the U.S. labor force, supply chain problems will be alleviated, and we will have ample resources to repair and expand our national infrastructure," it says.
However, the provisions have been put in doubt on the Democratic side, with Sen. Joe Manchin having told Fox News last week that he will not overrule the parliamentarian — who is expected to rule on the parole option in the coming days.