Is Immigration Reform Possible Soon?

Is there a possibility that congress may be able to pass immigration reform soon? Democrats are making a big push to do so, but there margin is extremely slim (1 Senator), so how can they get this done? What the Democrats are trying to do is using the budget process to enact this far reaching legislation.

Budget Reconciliation

In general, most legislation in congress requires a 60 member majority to enact. However, an exception to this is the reconciliation process for the budget (where the house and Senate get together and hash out their bill) – for this a only a simple majority is needed. Democrats have been trying to utilize this process to get some type of immigration reform passed, however they have run into a road block – the Senate Parliamentarian. You see, in order for non-budget provision to be included, the budget effects of the legislation are suppose to outweigh the actual statutory changes. It is the Parliamentarian that determines if this balancing act has been achieved and advises the Senate on whether a provision should be included. In terms of the proposed Democratic Immigration provisions, the Parliamentarian has stated that they should NOT be included as the statutory changes outweigh the suggested economic benefits that the Democrats indicated.

The next logical question is – Is the approval of the Parliamentarian needed to enact this legislation? The answer is no, the approval of the Parliamentarian is NOT REQUIRED. However, it is commonly sought, and the advice is usually followed. The last change that was made that went against what the Parliamentarian advised was just a couple years ago when Republicans removed the required 60 votes needed to approve a Supreme Court justice. And in this case, where the Democrats only have a 1 vote majority in the Senate, and where some Senators stated they would most likely not vote against the Parliamentarian, they are very eager to get that approval.

So what does this mean for the chances of passing some reform? The biggest obstacle that the Parliamentarian pointed out was the provisions that would allow those in the US without status to adjust. It appears that if Democrats are willing to pare back their ambitions in that area (and I do understand why they wish to pass this, and agree that it is needed) and submit a smaller bill, that the Parliamentarian may well approve of the addition. So, overall, I would say that there is a good chance that some immigration provisions will be included and passed, the only question is how much and which provision.

Author: Adam Frank, Esquire

I am an immigration attorney with over 20 years of experience. I was graduated from Brandeis University undergrad in 1990 and then spent a year traveling around Central America. In 1991 I began attending the University of Baltimore School of Law and was graduated in 1994. I began working in Immigration Law in 1998 when I joined a small law firm and, in 2000 opened my own firm with my law partner Ed Leavy. Sadly, Ed passed away in 2011. I am still a partner in my own firm with my current partner Brendan Delaney. Our firm is Frank & Delaney Immigration Law, LLC.