Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and dozens of her fellow Democrats, who just voted for a bill that falls well short of citizenship rights for illegal immigrants, are now pleading with their Senate colleagues to give them a mulligan and add a path to citizenship back into the legislation.
The House version, which cleared the chamber last week on a 220-213 vote, offers a deportation amnesty and tentative legal status to perhaps 7 million illegal immigrants.
But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez led 90 members who voted for that bill in a letter Monday urging Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a fellow New York Democrat, to “reinstate” the full pathway to citizenship that was dropped from the House bill.
“Democrats promised a pathway to citizenship, and we must deliver one,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said.
Also signing the letter were three Democrats — Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Lou Correa and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — who’d vowed to oppose any bill that didn’t include full citizenship.
In the end, they bowed to pressure from party leaders. Had they voted against it, Democrats’ margin for victory would have been reduced to a single vote.
Democrats who signed the letter are trying to placate a vocal segment of the immigrant-rights community that has excoriated the party for not pressing harder for full citizenship.
Yet lawmakers say they had no choice.
The immigration debate is taking place as part of President Biden’s broader $1.75 trillion budget bill, which covers everything from climate change investments to tax policy to universal preschool and a federal paid family leave guarantee.
House Democrats had originally written a full pathway to citizenship for as many as 8 million illegal immigrants, covering “Dreamers,” people on other tentative legal statuses, and those deemed to be holding “essential” jobs in the American economy.
But they tossed that plan in lieu of the lesser one that offers “parole” status — another tentative legal situation similar to DACA, albeit with a longer time frame.
They were bowing to the Senate, whose rules say provisions in the budget must be chiefly concerned with fiscal matters.
The Senate parliamentarian has already shot down two proposals for a full pathway to citizenship, ruling that strayed too far from the budget’s fiscal core.
A ruling on the less-comprehensive deportation amnesty included in the House bill has not yet been delivered.
Immigration activists, now joined by the dozens of House Democrats who signed on to this week’s letter, say senators should surmount the parliamentarian’s ruling and have the chamber’s presiding officer rule that a pathway to citizenship is acceptable as part of the budget.
They argue that Democrats promised more than a tentative amnesty to immigrant communities, and must deliver.
“Whether we keep our promise or not is a question of political will,” the House lawmakers wrote.
Top Senate Democrats have said overruling the parliamentarian isn’t going to happen, both because of the tricky precedent it would set to overrule the parliamentarian, and because it would upend the already fragile negotiations with more moderate senators over the rest of the bill.