Dems consider new immigration plan for domestic policy bill


Protesters risk arrest as they rally on the sidewalk by the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Washington. The protesters urged Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Democrats to include immigration reform in the reconciliation package. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are considering proposing that the government use its existing parole power to let about 7 million migrants stay temporarily in the United States, in the latest attempt to include sweeping immigration language in an expansive domestic policy bill, aides and advocates said Wednesday.

The idea is being pushed as President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders labor to resolve major disputes within the party about the final size of the social and environmental legislation and the initiatives it will include.

Helping immigrants remain in the country — preferably with a way to become permanent legal residents and possibly citizens — is a top-tier priority for progressive and Latino lawmakers. Near-unanimous Democratic support will be needed to push the overall bill through the narrowly divided Congress.

The latest Democratic proposal follows two failed, earlier attempts to persuade the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian that immigration provisions should be allowed into the still-evolving bill.

Under a 1952 law, the government has the power to let immigrants stay temporarily, including those already in the country. The measure, updated several times but never yet used to affect millions of people at once, currently allows the homeland security secretary to exercise parole authority.

The language Democrats are considering would specify that parole could be granted to those in the U.S. since 2011 for five years, which could be renewed for an additional five years, said one immigration advocate who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

The provisions under consideration would not explicitly provide paroled immigrants a way to become legal permanent residents or citizens. But roughly 1 million of them with close relatives in the U.S. would be able to take advantage of existing procedures to seek that status, the advocate said.

The idea is being considered by Democratic leaders but no decision has been made, said three Senate Democratic aides who would describe the status of the proposal only on condition of anonymity.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Lorella Praeli, co-president of the progressive group Community Change Action, said the parole option would “likely” be an option Democrats pursue.

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