A large group of Democrats is demanding that the upcoming debate on a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus budget include provisions offering citizenship rights to 5 million illegal immigrants.
The demand, led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and backed by more than 100 lawmakers, throws a new wrinkle into the budget bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, is trying to push through her chamber this week.
The crux of the budget is President Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal for coronavirus relief, including liberal wish list items such as a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.
But the Hispanic caucus says some illegal immigrants have been at the center of assistance during the pandemic and they deserve to be rewarded with the chance for citizenship.
“They are protecting the nation’s food security, from working on farms and food processing facilities, to working in grocery stores and restaurants. They are first responders, and they are teachers,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Mrs. Pelosi. “Undocumented essential workers have stepped up to serve our country in a time of crisis and should be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.”
The caucus is proposing citizenship for those in the U.S. under the Obama-era DACA program and the temporary protected status designation, and those who can claim to be essential workers.
They calculated that would total 5 million people, which would be the largest legalization, or amnesty, in U.S. history, covering about half the total unauthorized population.
Democratic leaders are eyeing the budget process as a tool to pass Mr. Biden’s bill because it allows them to circumvent the filibuster in the Senate, which is divided 50-50.
The House and Senate are aiming to have budget bills on the floors of their respective chambers this week.