In the parlance of Capitol Hill, an omnibus bit of legislation that has to be passed, such as an appropriations bill, is called a “Christmas tree bill”, because lobbyists often place numerous ornaments on it.
The infrastructure bill passed over the weekend belongs to that category, but we have been assured by a friendly lobbyist that there are no immigration elements in that huge piece of legislation.
The administration is putting all of its immigration asks in a single basket, the still-languishing budget reconciliation bill, also known as the Build Back Better Act, with its social programs measured in the trillions.
Will the reconciliation bill survive, carrying with it huge alien amnesty measures?
Perhaps a metaphoric approach will suggest the answer to the question.
You see, Grandpa and Grandma live with a cat, a dog, a canary, and lots of furniture in a big house in California. They plan to drive their old station wagon east to visit their children, and to bring each of them pieces of family furniture.
Grandpa (the president) has a long list of stuff that he want to give each of the (now adult) children; Grandma (the speaker) has a similarly large batch of memorabilia for them and the grandkids. They both want the dog (the moderates), the cat (the liberals), and the canary (other vested interests) to make the trip with them and the stuff. There is a certain amount of friction within the cargo, as the dog must be separated from the cat and the cat cannot be allowed near the birdcage.
Meanwhile, the station wagon is not a large one (the Democrats have the thinnest of majorities) and there is a very real question: Is there enough space for all the goodies? Grandpa and Grandma have all the social ambitions of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, but those two had fleets of 18-wheeler trucks (congressional margins) for such trips.
So the questions are: Can the station wagon be loaded in such a way that all the contents fit in, and will the station wagon’s engine start, much less operate all the way from coast to coast?
Given what we have seen over the last few months, one doubts that the vehicle will ever be completely loaded, and even if that happens, it does not seem likely that the station wagon will make it even as far as the Nevada line.
Meanwhile, some at least superficially helpful elements of the actual reconciliation bill have come to light, with a little help from an unlikely source, the Indian press.
Seeking to give the “Build Back Better” bill the funding that it needs, the Democrats have proposed raising a number of migration fees, including one increase of $50,000. Relatives of principal would-be immigrants will be charged $2,500 each to get around our country-of-origin limits on some visas; the fees would be $5,000 for those using previously unused visas in the EB-1 and EB-2 categories for various groups of allegedly “needed workers”, and the highest of the fees, $50,000, will be charged to Chinese nationals with EB-5 credentials for immigrant investors who have more than two years for their green cards. There is no one but Chinese on this waiting list.
DHS always needs more money, and this would be a major boost.
Incidentally, it takes real legislative craftsmanship, and the oddities of the current system, to apply such large fees only to people from a single nation. The Indian paper did not make this point.
The coverage in the Economic Times of India, their Wall Street Journal, at least in this article, has a sense of entitlement, dwells on the additional fees, and says almost in passing that the bill would “expedite the path to permanent residency for several thousand Indian nationals who are in line for a green card.”
In fact, there would be huge breaks for large numbers of Indian nationals, notably in the EB-2 class; these are people working in the U.S. now in H-1B (needed worker) and L-1 (international executive) categories. But whatever the slant, I must admit that the Indian media covers our immigration policy developments far more thoroughly than the U.S. papers do.
One final point: Though the most recent House version of the reconciliation bill gives some breaks to some individual EB-5 investors, it does not revive the main part of the program, which has been dead since June 30.
This is significant because this is exactly the kind of legislation that Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) has used as a vehicle to extend the program in the past.