AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta; Matt York, Ross D. Franklin
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta; Matt York, Ross D. Franklin

Yesterday, the Senate approved the $1.5 trillion overall legislation by a 68-31 bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans have battled over rising inflation, energy policy, and lingering pandemic restrictions, but they’ve rallied behind sending a $13.6 billion emergency package of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. However, immigration advocates are disappointed that the budget did not include funds to address immigration priorities. 

“Our hearts and minds are with the people of Ukraine as they deal with this crisis. However, at a time when Arizonans are recovering from a pandemic and dealing with rising inflation and out of control gas prices, the last thing we need is a budget bill that guts critical COVID Relief and provides zero support for our immigrant communities who kept this country afloat despite the severe danger to their health from COVID-19,” Cesar Fierros Communications Manager at Living United For Change In Arizona told The Copper Courier. “Why is the US Congress deprioritizing our communities? Why do our Representatives in Washington DC struggle to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time?”

Though White House officials initially told Congress that Biden wanted $30 billion more to continue battling COVID-19, he formally requested a scaled-back $22.5 billion a few days later. In bargaining over a final bill with skeptical Republicans, who said Congress had already spent enough, top Democrats settled for $15.6 billion.

But Wednesday, rank-and-file House Democrats rebelled against cuts Republicans had negotiated in previously approved pandemic aid for 30 states to help pay for the new spending. Rather than delaying the entire bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., removed all the pandemic funds. The number ended up at zero.

The bill also includes $14.8 billion for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and $8.26 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and $409.5 million for US Citizenship and Immigration Services to address USCIS backlogs and delays. According to FWD.us, a pro-immigration lobbying group, more than 9 million people are stuck in green card backlogs. Furthermore, the bill provides $782 billion for defense spending, an increase of $32.5 billion above fiscal year 2021.

“While there is much to be celebrated in this bill, I remain concerned by the bloated defense spending and unreasonable funding levels of the immigration-related provisions,” Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) said. “From the continuous border militarization funding to the Trump-era immigration enforcement and detention levels, Republicans continue to disregard the impact of this funding on my district and constituents. That’s why I invite Members of Congress to visit the border to understand first-hand the harmful impact of these provisions. If we want our budget to truly reflect our values, we must provide true parity between domestic and defense spending.”

Congress also revived the EB-5 Immigration Investor Program, allowing foreign investors and their families to gain visas. However, as Mayra Vargas, Poder Latinx Community Organizer in Arizona, pointed out, this type of immigration program only benefits upper-class immigrants. 

“This leaves out low-income immigrants, who as a whole, contribute millions of dollars to this country, and this includes everyone from DACA, TPS, to any immigrant that is a frontline worker. Each year, undocumented workers, and their households, contribute billions in federal taxes. So for us, knowing that in this spending bill, there wasn’t anything allocated for immigrant communities, it’s just not enough. Our immigrant communities have continuously shown how much they contribute whether that is in labor where they are underpaid, taxes, which they don’t even benefit from because of their status—the government is not giving enough back.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.