WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats have waged an uphill battle to save their efforts to help millions of immigrants stay legally in the US, with their path unclear and uncertainty exposing tensions between party leaders and progressive groups, demanding bold results.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups said Monday they were already weighing new options a day after the Senate MP said their sweeping proposal would have to fall from a $ 3.5 trillion measure protected against Republican filibusters killing the bills. But it seemed very likely that the Democrats would have to reconsider their actions to help less than the 8 million immigrants they envisioned, and even then they faced terrifying prospects of getting their way.
Bipartisan MEP Elizabeth MacDonough’s verdict was a hard blow because without procedural protection, Democrats in the 50-50 Senate will lack the 60 votes necessary to end these GOP delays and pass immigration laws.
“It made me sad, it frustrated me, it angered me,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told reporters about MacDonough’s decision. “But make no mistake, the fight continues.”
Democrats and outside groups said their possible options were to reduce the numbers affected or the level of legal protection they would receive, or to tinker with data in existing laws that controlled how many immigrants can stay here.
Senator Bob Menendez, DN.J., a leading immigration advocate, said his party was considering legalization “in a different context” than the filibuster-protected law. He also said they might have some kind of status that “doesn’t necessarily provide a route to legalization.” He made no details for either of the remarks.
No Democrats said they were ready to give up, underlining that their decades of efforts to bring immigrants legal status are so important to many party voters that politicians do not dare to give them up.
“That really doesn’t mean this process is over,” Menendez said. He said the Democrats would look at “every available option” and continue to work with MacDonough “until we get a yes” from her.
The rules, rejected by the Democrats, would open doors to legal permanent residence and perhaps citizenship for young immigrants illegally brought into the country as children, often referred to as “dreamers”. It would also cover immigrants with temporary protection status who have fled countries hit by natural disasters or extreme violence, key laborers and farm workers.
Under the special budget rules that the Democrats use to protect their 10-year $ 3.5 trillion bill, provisions cannot be made if their budgetary impact is due to the scale of policies they would impose to be outweighed.
MacDonough left no doubt in her view, writing in a memo to the legislature that the Democratic plan to reside immigrants is “a huge and lasting political change that is dwarfing its budgetary impact”.
Doris Meissner, who headed immigration and naturalization under President Bill Clinton, said MacDonough’s opinion apparently left little leeway for Democrats to include key immigration provisions in the $ 3.5 trillion 10-year scheme, the dramatic Funded changes in the social safety net and environmental programs.
“It seems to me that this is just an attempt to be able to say politically that they have tried everything they can try,” said Meissner, now Senior Fellow at the non-partisan Institute for Migration Policy, about the Democrats’ plowing vows.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden remains “absolutely determined to create a path to citizenship” and supports senators who offer alternatives but warned: “We do not control the outcome of the parliamentary process.”
Some progressives have complained that this year, as the Democrats control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, the party will have to push harder on its political goals. Pragmatists have responded that despite democratic control over both branches of government, their clout is poor because the margins in Congress are razor-thin – an evenly divided Senate and a house where Democrats can only win if they lose three votes or fewer.
A conference call with reporters illustrated these pressures.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of progressive United We Dream Action, said the groups will decide which candidates to support in the upcoming election “not on how hard the Democrats tried or how they perished in the fight, but whether they delivered or not ”.
Another proponent apparently suggested that Senate Democrats dismiss MacDonough if they refuse to allow their immigrant language. “If at the end of the day you’ve exhausted all options and the MP is a ‘no’, then she’s not an elected officer,” said Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change Action, a progressive group.
Menendez said during the same call that he understood the lawyers’ “point of view and passion” but questioned whether MacDonough’s dismissal would be “constructive”. He suggested Schumer might not have the 51 Senate votes he needed for that.
Asked separately whether the Democrats should just vote to ignore MacDonough’s decision, Senate No. 2 Democratic leader Richard Durbin told reporters, “I don’t think that’s realistic. I think the voices that are needed in plenary are not there. “
MacDonough was appointed when the Chamber was controlled by the Democrats nine years ago.
One alternative discussed by the Democrats would be to update the so-called registration date in the existing law, which makes migrants who have previously entered and meet other conditions permanent residents.
The current registration date – January 1, 1972 – has not been adjusted since 1986, underscoring the resistance this fix had previously encountered. 2.8 million to 8 million people could be helped if the legislature followed the previous practice and set a new date eight to 18 years before it came into force, estimates the non-partisan Institute for Migration Policy.
Another option would be to revise a now-outdated law called Section 245i that would allow certain migrants who are already in the US by a certain date to apply for permanent residence if sponsored by a relative or employer and to pay a fine counting. Otherwise, people had to submit their applications to US consulates in other countries.
Currently, this exemption applies to immigrants in the United States until December 21, 2000 and for whom a sponsor filed an application by April 30, 2001, so that it no longer effectively helps the people.
Associate press writers Padmananda Rama and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.