Posted on June 24, 2021

Democrats to Seek Citizenship Pathway for Immigrants in Infrastructure Bill

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2021

Senate Democrats plan to include a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants in the country illegally as part of the sweeping infrastructure bill they hope to enact on a partisan basis this year.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose committee would start the process of crafting a bill, confirmed Tuesday that it would include a pathway to citizenship, but said Democrats are still determining who would be covered.


An early draft would call for $150 billion to go toward immigration policies, including the path to citizenship and some border security, according to a document circulating on Capitol Hill.

Comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, has bedeviled Congress and lawmakers of both parties for four decades. On several occasions, bipartisan groups have formed, stirring the hopes of immigrant populations, only to have those efforts fall apart. Immigration advocates are demanding that President Biden and Democrats — armed with majorities, albeit slim, in both houses of Congress — not waste the opportunity to enact meaningful change.

“Democrats stand to gain a lot politically with Latinos in particular if they actually get this done,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the advocacy group the Immigration Hub. “But the inverse is true as well: If it doesn’t actually get done this year, I think it’s going to be a major problem for Democrats going into the midterms.”


But as those talks take far longer than expected, Democrats are also starting the process of pursuing a partisan bill that would address several of their top priorities, such as climate, immigration and healthcare. Several progressives say they wouldn’t support a bipartisan plan without assurance that Democrats would follow up with the partisan bill.

Longtime advocates of immigration reform see the partisan process as the only reasonable vehicle to address immigration policy in a sharply divided Senate. {snip}


Advocates view the partisan bill as an opportunity to enact a pathway without having to agree to increased border and rule enforcement, the price tag Republicans have insisted upon in prior attempts at a compromise.


Still the Democrats’ path is fraught. The partisan process, called reconciliation, allows Democrats to skirt a Republican filibuster and enact legislation with a simple majority.

But it comes with downsides: It would need support from all 48 Senate Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them. It is far from certain that moderate Democrats would agree to a broad path to citizenship without addressing border security.


Legislation approved through reconciliation also has to have a direct impact on the budget and the Senate parliamentarian will go through the bill line by line to determine whether it does.

Immigration advocates say a pathway to citizenship would qualify, leaning on a 2005 parliamentarian’s ruling that policy related to green cards could be allowed in a bill.


Democrats involved in the early talks say their goal would be to grant a pathway to citizenship for as many of the estimated 11 million immigrants here illegally as possible.{snip}

A pathway of citizenship would almost certainly be included for the so-called Dreamers, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The executive action by President Obama allowed 700,000 people brought here illegally as children to live without threat of deportation.

Less known is how much further the policy would go to extending the pathway to people living with Temporary Protected Status, farmworkers and front-line essential workers. {snip}