Democrats have dealt a blow to immigration plans

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WASHINGTON – The Senate MP on Sunday dealt a serious blow to the Democrats’ plan to open a route to citizenship for an estimated 8 million undocumented immigrants with their $ 3.5 trillion social policy bill.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate MP who acts as the Chamber’s arbiter for her own rules, wrote that “the political changes to this proposal far outweigh the budgetary implications and that it is not appropriate for inclusion in the reconciliation”, states a copy of their decision received from the New York Times.

Democrats had tried to give legal status to undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children, known as dreamers; Immigrants who have been granted temporary protection status on humanitarian grounds; nearly a million farm workers; and millions more who are considered “indispensable workers”.

Immigration advocates called the plan their best chance in Congress to improve the lives of millions of immigrants after failed attempts to reach a bipartisan deal with Republicans.

“We are deeply disappointed with this decision, but the struggle for legal status for immigrants in the budget vote continues,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, in a statement, adding that the Democrats agree would meet the parliamentarian. “The American people understand that repairing our broken immigration system is a moral and economic imperative.”

Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat No. 2, and Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat from California, also issued a statement saying they had “an alternative proposal for parliamentarian consideration in the coming days.” prepared.

Meanwhile, immigration advocates are already urging the Senate-controlling Democrats to vote to disregard Ms. MacDonough’s decision and include the immigration revision in the package anyway.

Greisa Martinez Rosas, director of United We Dream Action, called the MP an “unelected adviser” and said the Democrats in Congress had “all the power to do the right thing”.

Under the Democratic proposal, undocumented immigrants would have been eligible to become U.S. citizens if, among other things, they passed background and health exams and paid a fee of $ 1,500. The plan would also have regained at least 226,000 visas that went unused in previous years due to “Covid-19 or bureaucratic delay” so that more visas could be issued.

The Democrats had hoped to incorporate the immigration revision into their comprehensive legislation to expand the social safety net they want to enforce through an expedited process known as reconciliation that protects it from a Republican filibuster. That would test the limits of the Senate’s rules, which require that any measure contained in a law of reconciliation have a direct impact on federal spending and income.

Ms. MacDonough’s decisions are advisory only, but several Democratic senators have indicated they would be reluctant to override them. She did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The budgetary cost of changes to immigration law – which affect health care benefits, Medicaid spending, and tax credits – exceeds $ 139 billion over 10 years, according to preliminary figures from the Congressional Budget Office. Democrats estimate that the legalization spurt would add $ 1.5 trillion to the US economy and create more than 400,000 jobs over the next decade.

Republicans argue that the immigration revision is only tangential to the budget and that Congress should focus on controlling the southern border with Mexico before attempting to change the immigration law.

“After working on several major immigration reform bills, I believe it would be a disaster to use the reconciliation process to legalize illegal immigrants,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican chief on the Budget Committee. “It would have led to an increased rush at the border – beyond the chaos we already have there today.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican, called Ms. MacDonough an “honest broker” last week and said her decisions were “material” to the functioning of the Senate.

“The MP, both sides agree, is the last word,” said McConnell. “I can’t blame the other side for trying to use reconciliation as widely as they want.”

In her decision, Ms. MacDonough reiterated the breadth of the policy change proposed by the Democrats.

“The reasons why people risk their lives to come to this country – to avoid religious and political persecution, famine, war, unspeakable violence and lack of opportunities in their home countries – cannot be measured in federal dollars,” wrote the MP.

She argued that “changing the law to clear the way” for millions of undocumented immigrants is “a huge and permanent change in policy that dwarfs its budgetary impact”.

Immigration advocates have prepared some backup plans in case the MP does not vote in their favor, including a plan to update the Immigration Register, a process for immigrants to become legal permanent residents due to their longstanding presence in the country.

Kerri Talbot, the deputy director of the Immigration Hub, said immigration advocates would not give up.

“This is not the end of the process,” she said in a statement. “As we have already said, this is not an isolated case. We have always known that this would be a back and forth where we would have to present several options. What we do know is true: an avenue to permanent residence and citizenship has significant budgetary implications, great bipartisan support and, most importantly, it is vital to America’s recovery. “

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