The Senate Parliamentary Counsel has indicated that an attempt by Democrats to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants as part of a $ 3.5tn (billion dollar) budget package – which would have allowed them to pass the measure with a simple majority and above the Republican opposition – “does not agree” for such measures.
Parliamentary Councilor Elizabeth MacDonough, an impartial arbitrator of the Senate rules, advised against including the immigration measure in the budget bill within a week of having heard the different positions of the Democratic and Republican legislators.
His decision marks a setback for Democrats’ plans to create a path to legal residency and U.S. citizenship status for at least 8 of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including many who have lived here for years. The last major immigration legalization process was a bipartisan bill signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
MacDonough had to decide whether granting citizenship to immigrants is essentially a budget issue, with enough merits to be included in the $ 3.5tn budget reconciliation bill, which would only require a simple majority for approval in the Senate. instead of the 60 votes required for most other laws. Probation under the normal process would require Republican support.
But it seemed to her that giving legal residency to millions of immigrants would be a “huge and long-lasting policy shift; much greater than its budgetary impact ”.
He warned that the decision to proceed with the measure for this particular matter “would set a precedent” that could expose any immigrant to lose their legal status through a similar legislative measure.
“That would be something shocking but it could be a logical result of the legislation if it is allowed to include the change in the reconciliation, which also shows that the changes to the policies that the proposal would imply go far beyond the budgetary impact assigned to it and by so much should not be included in a reconciliation process, ”he wrote.
His sentence could shut out the possibility of legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants through a budget reconciliation package, which Liberal Democrats have said they want to pass along with a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Senate Democrats and immigrant advocates said Sunday night that they will continue to try to include the immigration issue in the budget plan, and will soon offer alternative measures to the parliamentary counselor’s proposal. Among the proposals that have circulated in recent weeks would be to assign a more recent “registration date” so that people who have entered after the current date of January 1, 1972 can begin their application to legalize their status.
“We are deeply disappointed with this decision but the fight to provide legal status to immigrants through the budget reconciliation process continues,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, through of a statement late on Sunday. “Senate Democrats have prepared alternative proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate Parliamentary Counsel in the coming days.”
But Republicans praised the decision, indicating that the US government should not approve an “amnesty” when at the same time it is having to contain a new wave of undocumented immigrants on the southwestern border.
“After decades of failure trying to set their amnesty agenda, Democrats tried this unprecedented maneuver,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement. “It was inappropriate and I’m glad it failed.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, wrote on Twitter: “It would be a terrible idea to provide legal status without first securing the border and reforming the immigration process, which is currently being abused.”
The parliamentary counselor’s decision intensifies pressure on Senate Democrats and the White House to decide whether or not to heed her. Officials complied with her when she recommended not including a minimum wage increase in a budget bill a few months ago.
But the future of millions of immigrants is at stake, and many fear that a Republican president could resume his crackdown on undocumented immigrants, as openly did during the Trump administration.
“I still believe this is the year in which we can finally achieve profound, bold, inclusive and humane immigration reforms for millions, and I will not stop fighting until we achieve just that,” stated Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ. “The immigrant community has waited too long and worked too hard for the good of this country, and I will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Although Senate Democrats are preparing to present alternative proposals to that of the parliamentary councilor, calls for Democratic leaders to ignore the councilor’s recommendations and include the path to citizenship in the budget plan intensified late Sunday.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, who had already called on the Senate to fire the parliamentary adviser after her decision not to recommend raising the minimum wage, tweeted Sunday that the White House “can and should ignore.” his advice.
“We cannot miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the right thing,” he tweeted.
Immigrants gathered in Washington DC for a march on Monday also urged Democrats to continue their plan toward guaranteeing citizenship.
“The parliamentary councilor is pushing us against the wall,” said Oscar Rodríguez, a 48-year-old truck driver and father of two from Honduras who lives in Queens and has had “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS). in English) since 1998 after a major hurricane swept through their country, but who is not eligible to apply for citizenship.
Schumer knew this could happen. He must do what he has in his power to do ”.
In the past, some critics of the decisions of parliamentary advisers have called for them to be fired. But retired parliamentary adviser Alan Frumin said Sunday that such a decision would be “ridiculous” in this case.
“The parliamentary counselor just gives her advice and whoever is presiding over the Senate doesn’t necessarily have to take it on,” said Frumin, who retired in 2012 after having served in the parliamentary counseling office for more than 35 years.
Frumin said ignoring the parliamentary councilor is rare because she interprets the laws of the Senate itself and offers the best possible advice. The Senate, he said, is his client. “He has an excellent record of sound decisions,” he said.
MacDonough, who was a lawyer for the government agency in charge of immigration enforcement before joining the parliamentary office in 1999, expressed her sympathy for undocumented workers in her 1,300-word decision. He noted that they cannot obtain driver’s licenses in many states, or pay for state college enrollment, or even bring family members to the United States. Many are exploited at work, fear seeking medical assistance in the country, and live in constant fear of deportation.
But he noted that these are all policy issues – not budget issues.
“The reasons why people put their lives at risk to come to this country – to escape religious or political persecution, hunger, war, appalling violence and lack of opportunity in their home countries – cannot be quantified in federal dollars, ”he wrote.
President Joe Biden has made repeated calls to provide citizenship to undocumented immigrants and has supported the proposal that the issue be included in the budget reconciliation bill after the citizenship bill failed in a bipartisan dialogue. .
Biden said Friday that he was “sure” that this year the United States will finally allow undocumented immigrants to begin their citizenship application process, especially those immigrants who came to the United States as children, those with TPS due to wars or natural disasters in their lives. countries of origin, agricultural workers and workers in essential areas, who, he said, “carried our country on their backs during the pandemic.”
A White House spokesperson described the parliamentary councilor’s decision as “deeply disappointing, but we are fully counting on our allies in the Senate who are going to present an alternative proposal on the immigration issue in a way that the parliamentary councilor considers.” .
Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post contributed to this article.
Maria Sacchetti covers immigration issues for the Washington Post, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the judicial system. He previously worked for the Boston Globe, where he helped release many immigrants from prison. He lived for many years in Latin America, he speaks fluent Spanish.
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