Last night, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.5 trillion bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The House of Representatives already passed the 2,741-page bill less than 24 hours after it was introduced, ensuring that no member of Congress had the opportunity to read the legislation in its entirety before voting. My colleague David North already covered the revision to the controversial EB-5 investor visa program, language that largely mirrors the regulation that started under President Obama, finalized under President Trump, and tossed by an unelected magistrate judge over the validity of acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Kevin McAleenan’s appointment.
Regarding immigration, what is most notable is what is not included in the bill. Despite a historic border crisis, there is no funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, though reportedly it does provide money to help fund the borders of eight foreign countries. The bill also does not include any language to close the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) or Flores loopholes. Andrew Arthur has extensively covered how to close these loopholes that help fuel the Central American economic migrant border surge. On the legal immigration side, the bill dropped the Big Tech green card giveaway that congressional leadership unsuccessfully tried to pass (along with amnesty) via the budget reconciliation process.
But the bill does include a few problematic immigration provisions. First, Congress provides money for the Biden administration to continue allowing Afghans into the country through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), or “humanitarian parole”. This is problematic because Congress already allocated $7 billion for this purpose in December and there is no way that money has already been spent. Additionally, previous stopgap funding bills adopted an overly broad definition of who can qualify as an Afghan parolee. Tragically, some of these visa-less, and largely un-vetted, Afghans have gone on to commit heinous crimes in American communities once DHS released them from custody. Additionally, Congress yet again delegated authority to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to increase the H-2B cap. While many members of Congress from both parties champion this cheap labor pipeline, lawmakers continue to punt the matter to the executive branch instead of revising the law to set the H-2B cap at the “right” number.
Secretary Mayorkas has used this authority every time Congress has given it to him so it is reasonable to expect additional H-2Bs to be made available to seasonal employers sometime this spring. Armed with this knowledge, employers have even less incentive to increase wages or offer better conditions or change recruitment practices to try to get Americans into these jobs.
All told, this funding bill is not terrible on immigration, but it fails to fund critical things our country needs while needlessly providing money for programs we do not need at this juncture.