As Democrats reach to finalize President Biden’s budget, immigration activists are warning they will not be left behind, demanding that a clear pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants be part of the bill.
The League of United Latin American Citizens said President Biden has promised citizenship rights and anything less than that “is no deal.” LULAC warned of electoral misfortune should Democrats fall short.
“Ignoring our outcry for justice is not acceptable. The Administration should be prepared to face the anger and disappointment of millions of Latinos and the consequences in 2022, which is not far away,” said Domingo Garcia, the group’s national president. “No more empty promises.”
The warning comes as Democrats struggle to figure out what is possible in the massive overhaul of the country’s social welfare programs. Its price tag already has been cut from $3.5 trillion to no more than $2 trillion, and Mr. Biden has seen his plans to tackle climate change in the bill upended.
Now Democrats are trying to figure out what they can do with less money and within the rules of the budget.
Those budget rules already have blocked two proposals that would have amnestied most illegal immigrants in the country. The Senate’s parliamentarian ruled that granting citizenship was too momentous a policy change to shoehorn into a budget reconciliation package.
Democratic senators are working on a “Plan C” proposal that could grant “parole in place,” a tentative legal status, similar to the current DACA program for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” which lacks a firm pathway to citizenship.
Immigration groups are debating among themselves over whether that’s acceptable.
LULAC, which bills itself the country’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights group, said the Biden administration needs to tell Congress that citizenship is a must.
“We will not accept anything less,” LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides said Wednesday at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.
Other activists have been wary of drawing such bright lines and have signaled they might accept the Plan C option of parole.
“A lot of it depends on the details of what the parole language would look like, but we are committed to delivering for people this year,” Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change Action, told reporters last week.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, said they “want as much protection for as many people as possible.”
Activists have told senators not to accept the parliamentarian’s ruling that shot down Democrats’ Plan A, a new pathway to citizenship for perhaps 8 million people, or Plan B, updating the window on an old pathway to citizenship to include most current illegal immigrants.
The activists say the parliamentarian is an adviser to the Senate and senators have the final word. They’ve asked Vice President Kamala Harris to exercise her powers as presiding officer of the chamber to rule that a broad pathway to citizenship does fit within budget rules.
Ms. Harris and the White House have been reluctant to engage in that possibility, and key senators have said overruling the parliamentarian is unlikely.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat seen as the linchpin of the negotiations, said earlier this month that immigration is likely “too big” for the budget.
There’s pressure on party leaders from the left, though.
At Wednesday’s Capitol Hill press conference, several House Democrats said they have told party leaders their support for the budget package depends on immigration being part of it.
“We have expressed our point of view regarding our votes to leadership,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, New York Democrat. “We’re not alone in our thinking that this must happen.”