Advance Notice: Briefs

Senator says reconciliation bill ‘is our opportunity’ for immigration reform

By: - August 2, 2021 3:05 pm

Susan J. Demas

Immigration reforms, including a path to citizenship, should be included in the sweeping agenda Democrats are about to consider in a reconciliation bill that will circumvent a Republican filibuster, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and several other Senate Democrats told President Joe Biden last week.

Cortez Masto was among a group of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members scheduled to discuss a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers. However, the Thursday meeting also centered on calls to pass immigration reform for broader categories of immigrants through the reconciliation process, including TPS holders, and farm and essential workers.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) walks in a hallway at the Capitol December 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wong, Getty Images

“I urged President Biden to support our efforts to pass immigration reform through reconciliation. For decades, politicians have refused to act to fix our broken immigration system, and this is our opportunity to ensure we are treating workers and families with dignity,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.

“A reconciliation bill that balances border security with a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm and essential workers will create jobs, boost our economy, and lift up working families across Nevada and the nation,” Cortez Masto said. “Let’s get this done.”

Biden has been tight-lipped on whether he supports passing immigration reform through the reconciliation process, but Senate Democrats are moving forward with calls to create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants through budget reconciliation, a process that allows measures affecting the federal budget to pass with a straight majority vote.

But the strategy depends on whether the Senate parliamentarian, tasked with approving such measures, rules immigration measures are eligible under Senate rules.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who attended the meeting, said he is “optimistic” that the Senate parliamentarian will greenlight Democrats’ efforts.

“The economic gains made possible by providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and essential workers are indisputable,” Menendez said, during a call with immigration advocates.

In 2015, Senate Republicans could increase the number of available green cards through a reconciliation package because the measures affected the federal budget, said Menendez, adding that it’s possible for Democrats to cite budget impacts to enact broader reforms through reconciliation.

Hours before the meeting with Biden, Menendez spoke at an event organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition and told immigration advocates he does not believe immigration reform is possible without the reconciliation process.

“If we don’t have reconciliation, I’m not sure that there’s a pathway forward,” Menendez said.

During the call, Menendez said he’s been involved in bipartisan talks with Republican colleagues for several months in hopes of finding common ground on immigration, however, the meetings have remained unproductive.

“Here is the truth I’m beginning to realize: The Republicans of 2021 are not the same Republicans I worked with in 2013 to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate,” said Menendez, who was part of a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who in 2013 successfully passed immigration reform in the Senate before the bill died in the Republican-controlled House.

“These days my colleagues on the other side of the isle are more interested in punishing immigrants than they are in recognizing their incredible contributions to this country,” Menendez said. “They’ve learned from ex-president Donald Trump that xenophobia is a potent political tool and they want to preserve it for the campaign season.”

A version of this story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Nevada Current. Read the story here.

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Jennifer Solis
Jennifer Solis

Jeniffer Solis is a reporter with the Nevada Current. She was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies.