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Manhattan Times: Immigration measures imperiled by Senate decision

Posted by: Postmaster in News September 28, 2021 0 Comments

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By Gregg McQueen

The Senate Parliamentarian, an unelected advisor to the U.S. Senate, has ruled that immigration provisions included in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package cannot be put forth.

Advocates pledged to push forward.

Democratic Senators had earmarked $107 billion to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, farm workers and immigrant essential workers.

However, in a memo to Senators on September 19, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the immigration elements could not be included in the budget reconciliation process, a procedure that is used to pass budget bills with a simple majority of senators rather than the typical 60-vote requirement.

Historically, provisions included in the reconciliation process need to have a direct impact on the U.S. budget. MacDonough stated that the proposed immigration spending would far surpass any budget impact by creating “a broad, new immigration policy.”

The Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.

“Changing the law to clear the way to [lawful] status is a tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” MacDonough wrote in the memo.

After months of intense negotiations in both houses of Congress, the ruling is considered a massive blow to Democratic hopes of advancing a platform that would make millions of immigrants eligible for green cards, including DACA recipients brought to the U.S. as children, TPS holders who fled violence in their homelands and scores of essential workers.

Facing a difficult battle to overcome the Senate Parliamentarian’s decision with a unified number of votes, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Democrats would reconvene with MacDonough to submit alternative proposals.

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

“America has always been that shining city on the hill that welcomes those pursuing the American Dream and our economy depends more than ever on immigrants,” Schumer added. “Despite putting their lives on the line during the pandemic and paying their fair share of taxes, they remain locked out of the federal assistance that served as a lifeline for so many families.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 8 million people would have been aided by the immigration measures. President Joe Biden had initially sought a broader initiative that would have affected 11 million immigrants.

“I am deeply disappointed with the Senate Parliamentarian’s decision but will continue to work with the Senate and my congressional colleagues to pursue the best path forward,” said Adriano Espaillat in a statement. “If there was ever a time to fix our nation’s broken immigration system and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring a pathway to citizenship for millions of individuals who are counting on us, that time is now.”

“I am deeply disappointed,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat said of the decision.

Immigrant advocates in New York City vowed to press on in the fight for an expanded pathway to citizenship.

“This is the first bite at the apple. This is a multi-step process in what will happen in the Senate budget reconciliation bill,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).

“We have a better sense of where [the Senate Parliamentarian] is, so that we know what is and what is not possible and we believe that we will succeed with providing relief and protection for undocumented people in the United States,” he said.

Awawdeh said NYIC had mobilized hundreds of advocates to travel to Washington, DC on September 21 to march in support of citizenship.

“We do not feel defeated,” he said.

“We can’t get disconnected from the absolute truth that this path to citizenship is for 11 million people waiting for relief now,” said City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Immigration. “As we’ve seen in Covid-impacted communities, immigrants take the brunt.”

Cesar Vargas, an immigration activist and current staffer for Menchaca, acknowledged the challenge including immigration elements in the spending package.

“We expected it would be a difficult process. Nevertheless, the Democrats are still exploring alternative options, including to narrow down the categories to make sure it is connected to the budget,” Vargas said. “The fight is not over.”