(Updates throughout with additional reporting.)
Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
Immigrants’ rights advocates on and off Capitol Hill are bracing for a fight if GOP senators use Democrats’ reconciliation bill to push amendments restricting immigration.
Democrats are aiming to bring the health, climate, and tax package to the Senate floor this week, if they clear procedural hurdles and lock in support within their party. A floor vote would provide an opening for a slew of proposed amendments, likely including GOP measures to tighten border security and extend pandemic-related restrictions on asylum.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Tuesday said he has some border-related amendments “in the queue” if the Senate votes on the reconciliation bill.
How Democratic leadership would handle prospective border security amendments remains to be seen. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he warned his Democratic colleagues against supporting any immigration restrictions that could undermine the package.
“I made it very clear at the caucus that adoption of such amendments, if they were to stay in the final, would kill reconciliation,” he said Tuesday.
Several moderate or politically vulnerable Democrats earlier this year supported proposals to extend Title 42, the pandemic policy that turns away would-be asylum seekers and other migrants at the border. But a package with amendments that progressives consider anti-immigrant would complicate passage in the House, where many Democrats have been steadfast in condemning the continued use of Title 42.
Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said he hopes Senate Democrats are united in defeating “bad” amendments.
“With that being said, what may be seen as a bad amendment to me may be seen as something someone else supports,” he said. “But amendments to this process might be detrimental in extending protections for people when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and lowering prescription drug prices as well,” he added, referring to provisions in the Manchin-Schumer agreement.
At least one moderate senator who backed earlier efforts to prolong Title 42 signaled he’s focused on the big picture in reconciliation. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said he would have to look at what amendments are offered but stressed his commitment to advancing the health and climate bill. “It’s important we get this done,” he said of the legislation.
Democrats’ earlier attempt at a reconciliation deal, which included temporary legal status for some undocumented immigrants, collapsed late last year when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he couldn’t support the overall package. The narrower deal announced last week by Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) centers on climate, health, and tax provisions and doesn’t include immigration.
Democratic Reps. Chuy García (Ill.), Lou Correa (Calif.), and Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.) previously staked their votes on the inclusion of pro-immigrant measures in the reconciliation deal. A yes vote on a package without such measures would be tough enough — even without the addition of tighter immigration restrictions.
Correa, for his part, said he wasn’t ready to say how he would vote on the current language or a prospective package that includes a Title 42 amendment. “Let’s wait and see” the final deal, he told Bloomberg Government on Monday.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has previously said it would oppose any legislative efforts to prolong Title 42. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also opposes the policy.
Nearly 300 immigrants’ rights, labor, faith-based, and local groups on Tuesday wrote to Democratic senators, urging them to reject any “anti-immigrant amendments” that would “harm immigrant communities and be a ‘poison pill’ that could derail this important legislation.” The AFL-CIO, National Immigration Law Center, Physicians for Human Rights, and others signed on to the letter.
Green Card Recapture
Advocates for overhauling the legal immigration system, meanwhile, are making an uphill push for additions to the new package. The libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center called on Senate Democrats to add provisions to recapture unused green cards and eliminate country caps that leave many immigrants — especially those from India and China — waiting decades for a visa.
“There is room for defensive posturing against damaging border amendments while proactively pushing for these critical, lasting reforms,” Kristie De Peña, Niskanen’s vice president for policy, said in a statement.
The House-passed version of last year’s failed reconciliation bill included green card recapture provisions and expedited processing options. While the Senate parliamentarian last year rejected other immigration measures as ineligible for the budget reconciliation process Democrats are attempting to use, she never issued a decision on the recapture provisions.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org