For months, the broader immigration movement fought to make sure Democrats included legalization of segments of the undocumented population in the budget reconciliation package, Build Back Better. It was no small feat.
They were thwarted by the Senate parliamentarian.
Yet, the urgency of the situation grows every day.
The Texas case challenging DACA continues to wind through the courts. One school of thought holds that the lower courts may halt the program – including renewals – at some point. And there is a growing consensus that by Spring 2023, the Supreme Court will strike down the program, regardless.
None of this is good news for Dreamers, much less farm workers or Temporary Protected Status recipients who would have been permanently protected if Build Back Better had moved forward. Of course, there will be pressure on the administration to advance executive actions to protect these communities. But without a path to 60 votes in the Senate – one that requires Democrats and Republicans to work together – the stability of their lives will depend on the administration and the courts.
In their SCOTUS confirmation hearing curtain raiser, Politico’s Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett spent time with Senator Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the most critical members when it comes to immigration reform.
Durbin, it turns out, is “now engaging with Cornyn and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to see if he can get an immigration deal.”
As the senator put it, “I don’t want to hear the word reconciliation. That holds up false hope. … The question is: is there anything we can do on the subject of immigration that can win 60 votes in the Senate? We’re going to test that.”
Which brings us to the Alliance for a New Immigration Consensus. Consisting of approximately 30 organizations, from leading faith institutions to business associations to national security to others, the Alliance is working to advance legislation that provides permanent legal protections Dreamers, agricultural workers, and Temporary Protected Status holders; and adopt a modern approach to securing the border by investing in smart border security and improving infrastructure at ports of entry. Simultaneously, the Alliance believes, Congress should focus on addressing the urgent need for secure, orderly, and compassionate processing at the border.
After the Alliance launched, Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative (both Alliance members) launched their own seven-figure digital ad campaign to build public support.
And in a recent op-ed in Newsweek, Bishop Mario Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration; Walter Kim, President of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Ed Litton, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote, “What most Americans probably do not realize is just how close we are to the DACA program being dissolved—throwing the lives of 650,000 individuals into turmoil.”
They concluded, “ … Our nation is divided. But despite the inside-the-Beltway popular sentiment, addressing our nation’s long-dysfunctional immigration policies can be a unique way to heal division.”
Remember, new polling the National Immigration Forum released just before the president’s State of the Union address found, that 79% of registered voters, including 76% of Republicans and 81% of white evangelical Protestants, want action on reforms that “strengthen border security, create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and ensure a legal, reliable workforce for America’s farmers and ranchers.”
The need for innovative solutions is growing. In fact, Axios reported last week that, “Human trafficking networks throughout Mexico and Central America will exploit the situation to ‘generate a mass migration event.’” The burgeoning refugee crisis in Ukraine along with growing numbers of Haitians fleeing a deteriorating situation in Haiti, much less the situation facing Afghans resettled in the US, all means threading the US Senate needle that keeps 50 Democrats on board and finds 10 Republicans will not be easy.
Last October, I wrote, “the complexity of Biden’s approach is leaving him between a deeply disappointed left and a deeply skeptical right.” A political abyss that allows Trump and others to claim there is no control over the immigration system.
So, if Durbin believes there is no path forward via reconciliation, the path to hope requires 60 votes. A legislative win that requires compromise on both sides brings clarity to the debate for the public which, in the long-term, “leads to a larger coalition of Americans supporting immigrants and immigration.”
In other words, the best way to improve the long-term outlook for immigrants and immigration is to show the public, in the short-term, we can get to solutions.