National Review, December 17, 2021
The Senate parliamentarian for the third time has ruled against inclusion of an amnesty for illegal aliens in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. Two questions remain: Can Democrats conjure up yet another gimmick to try to sneak into the bill work permits and Social Security numbers to illegal aliens? And what about the other immigration provisions in the bill?
As soon as the ruling was announced, Durbin, Schumer, and the four Hispanic Democrats in the Senate issued a joint statement saying, in part, “we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act.” They could try to do this by overruling the parliamentarian or just abolishing the filibuster altogether, but that seems unlikely. Manchin has said he won’t support either move, and there are other Democrats who are more quietly opposed, however much the noisy Left demands it.
Perhaps more interesting is the second issue — the bill’s changes to legal immigration. The two main provisions would result in the issuance of about 1 million extra green cards, beyond the current numerical limits. One measure would “recapture” “unused” green cards from past years (they weren’t unused, but brazen lies are par for the course in immigration lobbying), while the other would allow certain people on green-card waiting lists to buy their way to the front of the line. In both cases, the main beneficiaries would be workers imported by tech companies on H-1B visas to replace Americans in the IT industry.
The parliamentarian hasn’t ruled yet on whether these can be included. It seems unlikely they’d qualify because they’re not strictly budgetary matters, but we’ll see.
But suppose they are ruled in-bounds and included in the bill. There’s both a class and an ethnic angle here: The amnesty would benefit mainly less-educated, blue-collar Hispanic illegal aliens, while the green-card expansion would benefit more-educated white-collar legal workers from India and, indirectly, Big Tech.
Reflecting on this prospect, Senator Menendez said earlier this month that “it would be the height of irony that all of our efforts on immigration would be to help business and not help people who are undocumented.”
This tension is not new. The Left and Big Tech have been allied on immigration for probably two decades, with the latter providing the money and the former providing the foot soldiers. But the deal has always been that amnesty is a quid pro quo for any changes that would benefit the IT industry. Back in 2008, I was a witness at a hearing on skilled immigration, and Representative Luis Gutierrez all but told the other witnesses, all tech lobbyists, that amnesty was a prerequisite for their demands for increased imports of cheap tech workers. An excerpt:
I think we should give the high-tech industry the innovators that they need and that they should be able to remain here. My point is not that, not that I am against you. I am for you. Expand on it, then, to say how do we do that at the same time we have farm workers in pesticide-ridden fields earning low wages and say to them, “You are not really smart. You are not really very educated,” but who I could state are just as critical and relevant to the innovation of that industry as the Ph.D. and master degree students are to the high-tech industry. So, yes, let’s work on this, but I think let’s work on it on a holistic approach.
It’s entirely possible that at least a few hard-left House members would vote against a Senate-passed version of BBB that had no amnesty but did include a green-card giveaway for tech workers, especially considering how disappointing a stripped-down bill would be to them in other respects. So, in the interest of killing the whole thing, both immigration hawks and opponents of BBB more generally might be better off if the parliamentarian were to give the green light to inclusion of the provisions expanding legal immigration.