Undercurrent

Parliamentarian blocks immigration reform from reconciliation; Democrats vow to try again

By: - September 20, 2021 4:59 am
tps daca

TPS holders rally in front of Sen. Jacky Rosen’s office in June 10 to demand residency via the budget reconciliation process. (Arriba Las Vegas screenshot)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate parliamentarian has turned down a plan to include a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, a blow for Democrats and immigration advocacy groups when the decision was disclosed late Sunday.

According to an estimate prepared by the Center for American Progress and released last week, the immigration reform measures included in the reconciliation bill would make 112,700 people in Nevada eligible to apply for permanent U.S. residency.

“The parliamentarian issued their first ruling on immigration yesterday, it is very unfortunate as this proposal could have generated trillions of dollars in economic growth,” said Leo Murrieta, executive director with Make the Road Nevada. “We will continue to work with our senators to ensure that they move forward with an alternative approach. They promised and they must deliver. It is in their hands to help millions of immigrants that have been vital to our economy for the past years and during the current pandemic. For over a decade immigrants and advocates have fought for the path to citizenship and we know this is not the end. We believe Congress can make this happen for our immigrant families.”

Erika Castro, organizing director of the Progress Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said time for reform is long overdue adding that organizations will continue to press Congressional members to “pass a pathway to citizenship for Nevadans with DACA, TPS, as well as essential workers, and farm workers this year.”

“The moment is too historic, and we have come too far to walk away empty-handed,” Castro said in a statement. “A ruling from the unelected parliamentarian, a former ICE attorney, was just one step down a path with many mechanisms to achieve our goal, and it is only the beginning of the process. While it is disappointing that an unelected civil servant is able to unilaterally make a decision that affects millions of people, even when that decision goes against the will of the majority, we are undeterred and will continue this fight with our families, neighbors, coworkers, and thousands of Nevadans who have kept our state going through even the deepest parts of the pandemic.”

The opinion by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, was a setback for the Biden administration and Democrats who would have to reach 60 votes in the Senate for any immigration reform, rather than a simple majority through reconciliation, a process reserved for matters that affect spending, revenues, the deficit or the debt limit. The Senate is evenly split between the parties.

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), said in a statement. “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”

Schumer added that his party will “continue fighting to pursue the best path forward to grant them the ability to obtain lawful status.”

If accepted by the parliamentarian, the Senate’s proposal would have provided the Senate Judiciary Committee with $107 billion for “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants.”

The House’s proposal is more specific and would have provided a pathway to citizenship for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often referred to as Dreamers; farmworkers; those who hold a Temporary Protected Status, meaning they are unable to return to their countries; and essential workers.

There are more than 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that studies migration.

Immigration grassroots advocacy groups expressed their disappointment.

“The thing that I want to say to you at this moment is that we are still in this game, and we are not going to back down,” We Are CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said in a statement. “The Dems have the power to deliver, and they have committed to doing that. This is a movement moment and we must be committed to holding the line.”

This story was updated with comments from Nevada immigration reform advocates.

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