On Monday, Senate Democrats unveiled an initial framework for a proposed federal budget resolution for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October. The framework has two items pertaining to immigration — “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants” and “investments in smart and effective border security measures.”
Minimal details were provided but Democrats have been pushing for providing legal status to a large proportion of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in America and a pathway to U.S. citizenship. The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee that produced the framework, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, on Monday tweeted, “We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic.” The framework doesn’t spell out the criteria that would make immigrants “qualified” to have their legal status adjusted, but most Democrats have an expansive rather than a restrictive view of legalization for the undocumented.
It’s conceivable that eligibility requirements could be imposed pertaining to an immigrant’s arrival date in the United States and whether an immigrant has a clean criminal record. At this stage, the legislation remains a work in progress. The budget framework proposals mirror elements of Biden’s immigration reform bill unveiled in February that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. while also providing a fast track to citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as children.
It’s been 35 years since Congress last acted to provide legal status to a large group of immigrants. In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted a pathway to permanent legal residency for almost 3 million unauthorized immigrants and created a U.S. visa for seasonal agricultural workers.