(Headline USA) Senate Democrats were preparing to try letting millions of immigrants stay temporarily in the U.S. as part of the party’s massive economic plan, people involved in the effort said Thursday, as the White House released an outline of President Joe Biden’s trophy domestic legislation.
While that effort’s odds of succeeding were unclear, supporters were celebrating Biden’s inclusion of $100 billion for immigration programs in his pared-down framework. Yet there was also confusion over the immigration money’s prospects.
Helping immigrants has long been a major goal for progressive Democrats. That is not lost on the White House and party leaders laboring to corral the near-unanimous Democratic support they’ll need to push Biden’s long-stalled economic package through Congress.
However, the Senate parliamentarian already has twice shut down the prospect of shoehorning controversial “amnesty” provisions into the budget bill, which Democrats hope to pass without any Republican support or compromise using the procedural gimmick known as budget reconciliation.
For the third time this year, Democrats were planning to ask Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough whether revised language could be inserted into the bill. It would let migrants who arrived in the U.S. before 2011 and who lack permanent legal status apply for a permit letting them stay and work for five years.
The permit could be renewed for a second five years and would protect them from deportation and also potentially let them travel abroad. It would not establish a new way for them to gain legal permanent residency or citizenship.
However, cynics and critics have dismissed it as part of a long game by the Left to convert the millions of illegal immigrants admitted under its open-borders policy into Democrat voters in red states like Texas.
Many come from socialist countries where the Democrats’ current agenda is the norm and lack the cultural bonds to America that have prevented radical Marxist attitudes from taking root.
But that, too, may be slipping as recent election results suggest a growing number of Latino Americans are trending away from the Democrat stronghold—largely over the immigration issue, which cheats those who have legally obtained immigration status of their hard-fought efforts.
The immigration proposal was described by two people who discussed it only on condition of anonymity. They said the provision would help around 7 million migrants remain temporarily in the U.S.
After Biden met Thursday with House Democrats at the Capitol and presented the outline of his economic proposal, some radical leftists expressed disappointment with his visit and the framework.
While tables summarizing the programs in the 10-year, $1.75 trillion plan mentioned $100 billion for immigration, that money was listed separately, not within the overall price tag, leading some to wonder if it might be derailed.
“The $100 billion is there but it’s a footnote,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left the closed-door session with Biden. He added that during the meeting, Biden said “nothing on immigration,” an omission the lawmaker said left him feeling “anonymous.”
Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the overall package was “still evolving.” But he said he was supportive of the measure because of its spending on children, expansion of Medicare coverage and other programs for illegal immigrants.
Those initiatives “will greatly improve the lives of American families, especially Hispanics,” Ruiz said.
It was unclear when Senate aides would discuss the work permit proposal with the parliamentarian. Leaders want to push the overall legislation through Congress soon, though it’s uncertain whether unresolved disputes among Democrats will permit that.
Some advocates want Democrats to use their 51-50 Senate majority—which includes Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote—to negate any ruling by MacDonough that blocks immigration language.
However, that would be likely to result in even more political fallout for the party, which has seen its support tanking under the Biden administration and serious talk that at least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, might leave the party and deprive them of their majority.
It was unclear if Democrats had the unanimous party support they would need to prevail. In the past, leaders have shown little enthusiasm for overturning the parliamentarian’s rulings.
The White House economic framework only broadly described how the $100 billion would be used. It said the money would help reduce various backlogs in the immigration process, provide more legal representation and make “the asylum system and border processing more efficient and humane.”
An initial House version of the economic legislation would let the government use hundreds of thousands of unused visas to admit people into the U.S. It would also change an old law to let migrants in the U.S. before 2010 apply for permanent legal status. That statute currently applies to people here before 1972, making it largely irrelevant.
The House and Senate will have to approve identical legislation before it can get Biden’s signature.
In recent weeks, the Senate parliamentarian has ruled against two previous immigration proposals. One would have created a pathway to permanent residence for 8 million migrants. The other, like the House bill, would update the law letting those in the U.S. before 1972 apply for permanent status.
The $1.75 trillion overall plan is half the price tag envisioned three months ago, omits some priorities like requiring paid family leave and leaves detailed decisions for later.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press