Democrats are trying to regroup on immigration changes in their sweeping tax and social spending bill, even as key proposals face enormous obstacles and the overall package teeters on collapse.
The House-passed provisions of the legislation would offer parole status with temporary work authorization and protection from deportation for some undocumented immigrants, along with addressing chronic backlogs in the visa system.
In a December one-two punch, the Senate parliamentarian concluded the parole plan violated the chamber’s rules for the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to pursue their agenda without Republican support. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) dealt a bigger blow to the package days later when he announced he wouldn’t support the House bill.
“We haven’t given up,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said in an interview Wednesday. Democrats are actively discussing how to advance immigration measures, she said.
Key lawmakers haven’t offered specifics on their preferred path forward but say they’re committed to delivering protections for immigrants.
“As we work to find a path forward on Build Back Better, I will continue working with my colleagues as we pursue any and all options that will provide much needed legal protections to hard-working undocumented immigrants who only want an opportunity to contribute to America’s future,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement to Bloomberg Government.
“We’re all committed to fighting to get immigration reform included, and we’re not going to stop pushing for that,” Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) said in a hallway interview Wednesday. “The House-passed provisions of immigration reform are still where we are, being thoughtful and moving forward and continuing to show we can work together to get it done.”
Even without the Manchin complication, Democrats would have to use dicey procedural maneuvers to move forward on either the House-passed immigration parole provisions or an earlier plan to provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented people.
The Senate parliamentarian concluded both were too policy-oriented for the reconciliation bill, which under the chamber’s rules must contain primarily budget-related provisions. A coalition of immigrants’ rights groups is trying to secure broad support among Democratic senators to bypass that advice and pursue the citizenship option, said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
A House Democratic aide said the White House and leaders in both chambers are consulting with key House lawmakers on how to advance immigration.
Separate immigration proposals passed in the House bill, such as a green card recapture provisions or provisions allowing an applicant to pay a supplemental fee to expedite their case, have not been presented to the parliamentarian yet, so it is possible those proposals could survive.