Kerri Talbot, deputy director at The Immigration Hub, who previously served as Menendez’s chief counsel, could see MacDonough being open to that option for the same reason.
“There were some phrases in her decision about whether we were proposing new ideas, or whether these were already existing statuses or provisions,” she said.
However, updating the registry would exclude immigrants who arrived in the country after the newly updated year, including younger so-called Dreamers who came to the U.S. as children and immigrants from Haiti and Venezuela who fled more recent crises.
Menendez said another option would give undocumented immigrants a “recognized status” within the U.S. that would not put them on a path to citizenship. These types of interim protections could be done more easily through executive action, but would fall far short of what advocates have pushed for.
MacDonough’s decision did not tank all of the proposed immigration changes in the reconciliation text. While much of the advocacy community has focused on providing permanent relief for undocumented immigrants, including those at imminent risk of deportation, provisions to help work visa holders stuck in lengthy backlogs were not affected by the parliamentarian’s decision.
The U.S. limits the number of employment-based green cards handed down annually by country, forcing foreign professionals from populous countries like India to wait years or even decades for their turn in line.
In the House Judiciary Committee’s portion of the reconciliation text, Democrats proposed to “recapture” unused green cards from prior years to make more visas available for high-skilled visa holders.
The text also included provisions to allow some green card applicants to pay a hefty fee to be exempt from the per-country quotas entirely.
Provisions recapturing green cards were previously passed in a Republican-led reconciliation bill in 2005.
Talbot said plans to recapture green cards and help work visa holders in the backlog are still on the table for Democrats.