Democrats argued this time to the parliamentarian that they include a provision to change the registry date from 1972 to 2010 for the legalization of immigrants and it could be passed using budget reconciliation.
The effort to include immigration in their economic agenda bill
, although it has faced long odds, has stood as one of the last clear opportunities for Democrats to pass substantial immigration reform in President Joe Biden’s first year in office.
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, an official who advises the Senate on how its rules, protocols and precedents should be applied, rejected Democrats’ second argument after they submitted a memo Tuesday.
“This registry proposal is also one in which those persons who are not currently eligible to adjust status under the law (a substantial proportion of the targeted population) would become eligible, which is a weighty policy change and our analysis of this issue is thus largely the same as the LPR proposal,” MacDonough wrote in a response, which was obtained by CNN.
The source stressed to CNN they believed this fight for including immigration reform “is not over,” but this is — again — a huge loss for Democrats who want to include these provisions as a last-ditch effort for reform.
The ruling marks the latest setback for Democrats who have pinned their hopes of passing immigration reform this year on the reconciliation bill.
Following the ruling from the parliamentarian, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin called it a “disappointment.”
“Unfortunately we can’t find the language to clear for the reconciliation,” Durbin said, adding Democrats plan to continue finding a way to include it in the bill.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and another champion of immigration reform, also added to the disappointment from Democrats and called the decision “unfortunate.”
“I disagree with her, as I did from her original principle that she’s working from. I disagree with the principle she’s come out with,” he said, referring to the parliamentarian’s ruling that the budgetary impact is dwarfed by the significant impact of the policy change.
Menendez said now Democrats “will go to plan C,” but he wouldn’t elaborate on what that would entail. He said he doesn’t know when they’re going to meet with the parliamentarian again, but said, “We have a Plan C prepared, we just have to talk about executing it.”
Immigrant advocacy groups were disappointed by the parliamentarian’s earlier ruling against a separate proposal
to include legalization, but remained optimistic. Sergio Gonzales, Immigration Hub’s executive director, said at the time the decision “is not the final straw.”
Those hopes, though, might be dimming.
For years, Congress has tried and failed to pass legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship or otherwise address the immigration system. In the absence of legislation, the Obama administration, and now the Biden administration, has relied on DACA to ensure the group known as “Dreamers” — many of whom are now adults — can stay and work in the US.
This week, the Biden administration took steps to save the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule which will go through a public comment period but stressed that it is still not a final substitute for congressional action.
“The Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal. However, only Congress can provide permanent protection. I support the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill and urge Congress to act swiftly to provide Dreamers the legal status they need and deserve.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to the decision by restating the Biden administration’s commitment to working toward overhauling the US immigration system.
“We are committed to getting immigration reform done,” Psaki said. “This, I expect, would renew a look for what the vehicles and options may be.”
This story was updated with additional developments Wednesday.