September 14, 2021
The 117th Congress is currently considering legislation that would modernize our nation’s immigration laws through the creation of a roadmap to citizenship and expansion of access to higher education for the segments of the nation’s undocumented population. This legislation–contained in the FY 2022 Budget Reconciliation Resolution–must pass both the House and Senate and then be signed by the President to become law. On the House side, two committees, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Education and Labor, released and marked up legislation. Below, we provide a summary of the key provisions likely to end up in the final reconciliation resolution.
I. House Judiciary Committee Provisions
A. Roadmap to Citizenship. The legislative text would establish a roadmap to citizenship for: (a) Dreamers; (b) Temporary Protected Status (TPS) & Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders; (c) essential workers; and (d) farmworkers. To apply, individuals would have to pay a $1,500 surcharge in addition to processing and filing fees (likely around $500 to $750 per application). Finally, unlike previous legislation, this bill provides a direct roadmap to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status (also known as a “green card”), as opposed to previous legislation that usually required some sort of interim legal status.
DREAMers. The roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers would include undocumented Dreamers, DACA recipients, and documented Dreamers (e.g. those with some sort of legal status or visa); and provide a stay of removal for children enrolled in pre-school or K-12 until they qualify for relief under the bill. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they:
- Were continuously physically present in the United States since January 1, 2021;
- Were 18 years or younger upon entry; and
ONE of the following:
- Attained a degree from a higher education institution or postsecondary credential from an area career and technical education school or completed of at least two years of a qualifying program;
- Consistently earned income during the three years before applying;
- Are enrolled in a higher education institution of a postsecondary program and currently employed or participating in an internship, apprenticeship or similar program; OR
- Honorably served in the uniformed services.
Of note, under existing law, travel with advance parole does not interrupt continuous physical presence. Finally, LPR status will allow individuals to immediately access a variety of state and federal aid and benefits related to higher education, including: (a) financial assistance (including grants, scholarships, loans, work study, services, and more); (b) occupational and professional licensure; (c) enrollment and admissions; (d) in-state tuition; and more.
TPS & DED. The roadmap to citizenship for TPS & DED holders would include current and former TPS & DED holders; AND individuals who were previously eligible for TPS & DED but did not apply. To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they:
Were continuously physically present in the United States for at least three years;
- Did not engage in conduct that would render them ineligible for TPS or DED (mostly around criminal background issues); AND
ONE of the following:
- Had or were eligible for TPS on January 1, 2017; OR
- Had or were eligible for DED on January 20, 2021;
II. House Committee on Education and Labor Provisions
A. Expansion of Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid. This legislation would expand eligibility for federal financial assistance, including Pell grants, loans, and work assistance, to DACA recipients and TPS & DED holders through 2030.
B. Increase in Pell Grants. This legislation would increase the maximum amount of Pell grants (e.g. federal financial aid grants for higher education) by $500 through 2030.
C. Inclusion of Immigrants in Tuition Free Community College Provisions. This legislation would ensure that the bill’s expansion of free community college (which takes place through grant programs to state and local jurisdictions) would include all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, TPS & DED holders, and other noncitizens in various immigration statuses.
D. Inclusion of Immigrants in Tuition Assistance Grants to Minority-Serving Institutions. This legislation would ensure that the proposed expansion of tuition assistance grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) would include immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, TPS & DED holders, and other noncitizens in various immigration statuses.
1 There are other immigration-related provisions in this legislation that are not discussed in this summary, including provisions related to the Diversity Visa and EB-5 backlog reduction.
2 The markup in the House Judiciary Committee occurred on September 13, 2021; you can find the proposed amendments, roll call votes, and more on the committee’s website. You can view the most recent version of the language here.
3 The markup in the House Committee on Education and Labor occurred on September 10, 2021; you can find the proposed amendments, roll call votes, and more on the committee’s website. You can view the most recent version of the language here.