Supported by the Biden White House, top Democrats plan to hide immigration measures in their massive $3.5 trillion spending bill. While the plan is still in drafting, it would provide citizenship to various illegal immigrants, such as those brought across the border as minors and farmworkers already residing in the United States. The Hispanic Caucus and many other Democrats also want to tuck a section into the bill that would provide green cards to “essential workers,” including COVID health workers.
“The tactic — which just months ago seemed like a long shot even to liberals — is now widely seen as President Joe Biden’s best shot at confronting one of Washington’s policy leviathans and delivering on a decades-long party promise,” Politico reported.
Clearly, this isn’t just the backdoor scheming of a couple of amateurs. “A powerful coalition of House Democrats has recently backed the gambit of tackling immigration through the budget, including leaders of the Progressive Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus and the Black Caucus,” Politico noted. “In the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are among the strongest proponents.”
Durbin confirmed to Politico that Democrats want to include citizenship for some immigrants in the budget bill, but added the “decision has not been made” how many illegal immigrants the provisions would include.
For all the plan’s Democrat momentum, the Senate possesses “obscure budget rules” that may not allow the Democrats’ massive bill to pass “without GOP support.” Without the approval of the Senate parliamentarian, the Democrats’ plan won’t work. Her job is to decide “whether provisions of a bill passed using the legislative power known as budget reconciliation can evade a GOP filibuster and pass with a simple majority.”
Immigration provisions have passed parliamentary scrutiny in the past, but they’ve enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. This time, that clearly wouldn’t be the case.
Earlier this year, the current parliamentarian already “stripped out Democrats’ minimum wage hike in a coronavirus aid bill,” meaning this isn’t the first time Democrats have hidden controversial policy measures in spending bills. And the parliamentarian knows it.
The potential for failure nonetheless didn’t stop U.S. Representative for California and leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Raul Ruiz, from advocating for the Democrats’ plan as early as January. “We have had an every-which-way approach to immigration reform,” Ruiz complained. “This is currently our best effort.”
Some of Ruiz’s Democrat colleagues were even more transparent, telling Politico “they believe the current strategy is their only chance to enact meaningful immigration changes this Congress.”
This doesn’t mean Democrats will be successful. Multiple lawmakers admitted to Politico that the plan is still a bit messy.
Earlier this year, Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Joaquin Castro introduced a bill that would make “more than 5 million frontline workers across nearly 20 sectors, including janitors, nurses and farmworkers” legal permanent residents. But all Democrats might not be on board with such radicalism, and it’s still doubtful whether they can force immigration provisions through budget reconciliation. So, they’re embracing trial-and-error.
“Taking that backdoor approach to immigration, which wouldn’t require a single GOP vote, could cast a chill over any future attempts at bipartisan reform,” Politico emphasized.