House Judiciary Completes Markup of Budget Reconciliation Amnesty
FAIR Take | September 2021
This fall’s amnesty battle continues smoldering in the halls of Congress.
On September 10, Senate Democratic leadership made their case to the Senate parliamentarian that the inclusion of an 8-million-person amnesty does not violate the Senate’s Byrd rule. That is, they argued that this amnesty has significant impact on the Federal budget, and is not a secondary political objective.
In the House, the Judiciary Committee released actual amnesty text on September 10. This is the language that House Democrats will put into the reconciliation package that will in time head to the Senate if it passes. Then the parliamentarian will rule whether or not Democrats can include the amnesty. Republicans can also try to strip the provision.
The bill contains a broad amnesty for 8 million or so illegal aliens. This includes a bigger “Dreamer” population as well as every illegal alien “essential worker,” defined in a way that includes almost every line of work. Even worse, the bill requires DHS to give every illegal alien a “reasonable opportunity” to apply before deporting them, so long as they are prima facie eligible. That shields people from being from deported right after the bill passes. The bill also expands legal immigration by recapturing visas and quickly adjusting the status of those in the backlog.
This is all in exchange for nothing. It contains nothing to address the border crisis or anything enforcement-related. This is a green card giveaway to millions of illegal aliens – plain and simple.
The stakes were clear in the markup hearing, which occurred on September 13. House Republicans introduced 20 immigration-related amendments, all of which the Democrats voted against. They ranged in size and scope. On the larger side, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) introduced an amendment that stripped the entire amnesty language from the text. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) introduced language barring the bill from going into effect until the Biden administration re-implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols and until Congress appropriated $2.2 billion to fund the completion of the border wall.
Other amendments addressed significant lapses in the bill itself. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) introduced an amendment that would bar illegal aliens with 10 DUI convictions from earning the amnesty. The Democrats not only voted it down, but complained that such an amendment took away from the economic benefits of the amnesty. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) scoffed that “Whether someone has two or six or 10 or 20 convictions of DUI 30 years ago, someone can change.”
Another commonsense amendment that Democrats voted against came from Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). His amendment barred any illegal aliens with known criminal gang affiliations, connections, or convictions from receiving the amnesty. In a breathtaking display, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) remarked that stripping gang members from this amnesty would be a bad thing. Replying to Rep. Buck, she said:
I must oppose this amendment. As was mentioned before, the effect of the amendment would really be to frustrate the legislative recommendations that are an investment in human infrastructure. The United States will benefit from the resulting economic gains really for decades to come. This amendment would dilute that investment and diminish those economic benefits. And that alone is enough to oppose this amendment.
Throughout the day-long vote, the committee’s Democrats showed time and again their opposition to prudent and reasonable amendments. All day the Democrats defended the inclusion of this 8-million-person amnesty as a necessary budget concern and therefore relevant to the budget reconciliation process’s requirements. Republicans argued with force that the amnesty provision is a separate policy preference, and thus not germane to the budget.
The budget reconciliation battle still has a long way to go. Many other committees must draft and markup their additions to the final bill. The Senate’s committees must go through the same process in their respective committees.