As part of this bill, Democrats had tried to include a number of immigration provisions, including a pathway to legal permanent residence and citizenship for several categories of illegal immigrants. Those eligible included recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, those who are defended by Temporary Protected Status, farmworkers, and those considered "essential workers."
It was seen as Democrats’ best opportunity of passing pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, after attempting to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill earlier in the year stalled in the face of Republican opposition.
Given the 50/50 split in the Senate, Democrats would have had to get 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster, and Republicans have largely snubbed attempts to grant legal status to illegal immigrants – citing the effect they think it would have on the already surging crisis at the southern border.
Though in a preliminary ruling, MacDonough ruled that such language was inappropriate for a budget reconciliation bill.
MacDonough cited Congressional Budget Office estimates that 8 million people (approximately 7 million of whom are present illegally and currently ineligible for adjustment of status) would be adjusted to legal permanent residence (LPR) status under the program, and that it would raise the deficit by $140 billion over 10 years because of the expansion of the social safety net and benefits programs it would require.
She noted that the "essential" workers category covers 18 major categories and more than 220 sub-categories of employment, and that there are waivers for many conditions of ineligibility.
In her ruling, MacDonough noted the number of non-fiscal impacts that such a change would have, concluding that such a change in the law is a "tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact" and is therefore inappropriate for a reconciliation bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced in a statement that Democrats are "deeply disappointed" yet promised to continue fighting to provide such measures in the reconciliation process.
"Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days," he stated.
The ruling will potentially cause problems if Democrats have to slash the total size of the legislation to gain the support of moderate Democrats. Analysts claimed that including amnesty provisions could help placate the liberal wing of the party if the bill was trimmed.