Democrats Push GOP Aside & Announce Historic Immigration Bill

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This week, the Democrat-led House is preparing to vote on (and presumably pass) two immigration policy reform bills, including one that would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, meaning undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That same piece of legislation would also enact a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of migrants in the country under Temporary Protected Status, while the other piece of legislation would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrant farmworkers.

These pieces of legislation are separate from a more comprehensive bill that the Biden administration submitted to Congress that includes, besides those paths to citizenship, $4 billion in aid for Central America. Any immigration reform measure could face difficult odds thanks to the Senate’s filibuster rule, which allows members of the Senate minority to band together and block most legislation from moving to a vote. Under the rule, most legislation requires 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to move to a vote, so if at least 41 Senators band together — even if they’re in the chamber’s minority — they can stop the process. Including Vice President Kamala Harris’s role as a tiebreaker, Democrats only have 51 votes in the Senate — not enough to overcome filibusters.

Meanwhile, as summarized by The Wall Street Journal regarding the more limited pieces of immigration reform, “House leaders will use a fast-track process to bring up for votes the two immigration bills, the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Modernization Workforce Act, this week.” Both bills passed in the House during the last Congress with the support of a selection of Republicans, but Republicans controlled the Senate at the time, hampering abilities to move forward. In the current Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “has said he believes a narrower bipartisan deal on Dreamers stands the greatest chance of getting done in the next year,” the Journal summarizes. Durbin co-sponsored legislation to that effect with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The Journal reports that there’s a proposal to include a pathway to citizenship for some migrants in an infrastructure package that Democrats are angling to enact through a process called budget reconciliation, but it’s unclear that such an option would work. Budget reconciliation allows certain legislation to move to a vote with a simple majority in the Senate and was used for the recently enacted COVID-19 economic relief package, which zero Congressional Republicans supported despite broad support among the general public.