Biden said he supports passing immigration reform through the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending plan without any GOP support

Biden
President Joe Biden

  • President Joe Biden said Thursday he supports passing immigration reform without GOP support.
  • Democrats are hoping to pass a $3.5 trillion spending plan through reconciliation.
  • It’s unclear what immigration reform measures are being weighed for inclusion.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Speaking to reporters at the White House Thursday, President Joe Biden said he supports including immigration reform measures in the $3.5 trillion spending bill that Democrats hope to pass without any Republican support via the process of reconciliation.

Biden supports creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers or immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but said he’s unsure if it would be included in the bill, according to Reuters.

Biden’s remarks followed a meeting at the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris and a group of Democratic lawmakers to discuss the DACA program, which prevents the deportation of young immigrants.

Read more: Democrats are readying $3.5 trillion in spending. Meet 13 experts deciding who gets the money.

Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters that Democrats have an opportunity to pass immigration reform measures and that Biden “made it clear to us, unequivocally clear that he stands with our efforts.”

The DACA discussions followed a ruling last month by a judge in Texas that found the program unlawful, causing the suspension of new applications.

Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal advanced in the Senate Wednesday, with 17 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats in supporting it. In addition to the bipartisan plan, which will likely have a final vote in the next week or two, Democrats are hoping to pass a bigger infrastructure bill through reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a legislative tactic that allows lawmakers to pass bills that concern government spending with only a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster.

The $3.5 trillion spending package Democrats have proposed would include new social initiatives that Republicans opposed in the bipartisan bill. The initiatives include a national paid-leave program and affordable childcare, among other items.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig in June that Democrats were considering including immigration reform in the bill.

“Anytime there’s been a CBO examination on immigration reform, it produces a significant increase in the GDP without really costing much money,” he said, referring to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

It’s unclear what immigration reform measures would be included in the bill.

In March, House Democrats passed two immigration measures to establish pathways to citizenship for Dreamers and migrant farmworkers. Neither has passed in the Senate, despite a Democratic majority, because they lack the 10 Republican votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

The reconciliation bill would need all 50 Democratic senators on board to pass, but Sen. Kristen Sinema of Arizona said Wednesday she would not support a bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag, setting up the bill to be scaled back.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Biden’s Education Secretary allows undocumented college students to access stimulus funds

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Advocates for immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, rally in front of the Supreme Court June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Education Sec. Miguel Cardona said undocumented and international students can now receive stimulus aid.
  • This lifts a Trump-era policy that banned those students from receiving emergency aid.
  • The top Republican on House Education called it an insult while Senate Education’s top Democrat is relieved.
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President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package included nearly $36 billion in emergency funding for struggling students, but international and undocumented students were ineligible to receive that aid – until now.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona just eliminated that rule.

“The pandemic didn’t discriminate on students,” Cardona said in a press call on Monday. “We know that the final rule will include all students, and we want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to funds to help get them back on track.”

On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued a final rule that revised a Trump-era policy barring international and undocumented students from accessing emergency aid. In June, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had issued a rule stating only those who participate in federal student aid programs can receive stimulus money that shut out undocumented and international students, including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, also known as “Dreamers.”

DeVos’ rule also initially barred students who defaulted on student loans and those convicted of minor drug crimes from receiving aid, but that was lifted in January.

Cardona said during the call that the final rule will apply to all three rounds of stimulus funding and will ensure every student who needs it can access aid.

“What this does is really simplify the definition of a student,” Cardona said. “It makes it easier for colleges to administer the program and get the money in the hands of students sooner.”

DeVos’ policy met a number of legal challenges, including an ongoing lawsuit initiated by California Community Colleges that said they have kept millions of dollars received for grants because of DeVos’ limits on who is eligible to receive them.

Rep. Virginia Foxx – the top Republican on the House Education Committee – called it “an insult to every American.”

“President Biden is fueling an immigration crisis, and this final rule exacerbates the emergency at the southern border,” Foxx said in a statement. “I call on elected Democrats to stop swindling law-abiding citizens, put Americans first, and respect the sacrifice of hardworking taxpayers.”

But Chair of the Senate Education Committee Patty Murray said in a statement she was “relieved” Cardona took this step to give every struggling student needed aid.

Separately, the Education Department said in a Tuesday press release that it is now making available $36 billion in grants that will help over 5,000 institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled College or University, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

“These funds are critical to ensuring that all of our nation’s students – particularly those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – have the opportunity to enroll, continue their education, graduate, and pursue their careers,” Cardona said in a statement. “With this action, thousands of institutions will be able to provide direct relief to students who need it most, so we can make sure that we not only recover from the pandemic, but also build back even stronger than before.”

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US House passes the American Dream and Promise Act, which could put more than 2 million ‘dreamers’ on path to citizenship

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Advocates for immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act, one of two major immigration proposals advanced this week under the Biden Administration.

If signed into law, the bill will place 2.3 million “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors, on a path to citizenship.

At least 300,000 immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure, forms of humanitarian relief, will also be put on a track to permanent residency if they meet eligibility requirements if the bill becomes law.

All House Democrats voted to approve the legislation, and nine Republicans voted alongside them, in a 228-197 vote.

The American Dream and Promise Act would allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of 18 to apply, if they meet the requirements, for a 10-year conditional permanent residency.

If applicants earned a college degree or attended a bachelor’s program for two years, served in the military for two years, or worked in the US for three years, they qualify to apply.

The new bill is headed to the Senate and, if signed, would mean that the children of immigrants who hold temporary work visas would be eligible to apply for status outside of employment-based processes.

The House is also expected to pass a second bill Thursday which offers a temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers.

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Activists want Democrats to use their majorities to give undocumented immigrants permanent relief from deportation

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Demonstrators protest outside the US Citizenship and Immigration Service office in Miami, on February 20, 2021, demanding that the administration of US President Joe Biden cease deporting Haitian immigrants back to Haiti.

  • Activists want Democrats to use their majorities to provide permanent relief to undocumented immigrants.
  • They expect two bills to be introduced to protect Dreamers, TPS recipients, and farm workers.
  • Executive actions to protect immigrants have been subject to conservative legal challenges.
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Democrats now control the House and the presidency, and narrowly control the Senate, and activists want them to use their power, and with any means available, to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.

“This is our time,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, said on a conference call Wednesday. Her group – a youth-led immigrant rights organization that claims 400,000 members – is calling on Congress to pass the Dream & Promise Act, legislation that would prohibit the federal government from deporting those who came to the United States as children, as well as anyone who has received Temporary Protected Status after having fled a natural or man-made disaster.

President Joe Biden has pledged not to deport members of either group, but unilateral executive action is always subject to legal challenges; a 100-day total moratorium on deportations, for example, was recently overturned by a conservative judge responding to litigation from Texas’ Republican attorney general.

“Our movement delivered a clear political mandate,” Martinez Rosas, an immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the US since she was a young child, said on the call. Democrats have “a moral and political obligation to see it through,” she argued, adding that the legislation should be passed without any compromises that see more funding go toward border enforcement.

Introduced in 2019 by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, the bill passed the House, with the support of all Democrats and seven Republicans, but went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate. Activists expect it to be reintroduced shortly in lieu of the comprehensive reform package proposed by President Biden, which would provide a path to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“We are saying clearly to Democrats that they must use every available pathway, including legalization in the upcoming COVID jobs package, and any other effort to ensure that we have protections for undocumented people,” Martinez Rosas said.

Under the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, many immigrants who came to the US as children are eligible to obtain work permits and protection from being forcibly removed from the country. But DACA requires its recipients to renew that protection every two years; the lack of permanency exacerbated by shifts in the political landscape.

Joella Roberts, a DACA recipient who came to the US as a child from Trinidad and Tobago, said it’s a mark of progress that that legalization is on Congress’ agenda, reflecting “the growing power of our movement.” And she praised lawmakers for ensuring that misdemeanor convictions – and possession of marijuana – would not make one ineligible. But, she said, “I would be remiss if I did not mention our disappointment with the criminal bars that are still in place.”

Activists also expect Democrats to introduce another measure that could provide a pathway to citizenship for around one million undocumented farmworkers and their families. Votes on both pieces of legislation are expected before the House’s March 22 recess.

“It is long overdue for Congress to recognize the integral role that immigrants play in our communities and in the nation for food security,” Andrea Delgado, government affairs director at the United Farm Workers Foundation, said Wednesday. “We look forward to the imminent introduction of these bills and to sending them over to the Senate, where we will continue to build power and demand change.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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