The Biden administration’s bid to reform US immigration laws has been blocked by the Senate. A proposal to grant millions of undocumented immigrants legal status in the US was quashed by the Senate parliamentarian – an unelected official who rules on key procedural issues.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the administration’s plan to attach its US immigration proposal to a $3.5 trillion spending bill was prohibited under Senate rules. Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said: “We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues.”
The proposal, which faced stiff opposition from Republicans, was set to provide a pathway to US citizenship for approximately eight million undocumented immigrants – most of whom arrived in the US as children.
Millions to benefit from plan
Under the plans, farmworkers, essential workers, and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, which grants work permits and deportation relief to citizens from nations hit by violence or natural disasters, would also have been put on a pathway to citizenship in the US.
The setback in the Senate comes amid a new migrant ‘crisis’ at the US southern border with Mexico. US immigration and border authorities have forcibly deported more than 12,000 Haitian migrants who had gathered under a highway bridge that links Del Rio, Texas with Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.
Border officials came under fire for their handling of migrants amid scenes of patrol officers charging at people while on horseback.
Alternative immigration reform proposals
Despite the setback in the Senate, it’s understood that Democrats have prepared a series of alternative proposals and are set to hold further meetings with the Senate parliamentarian.
A solution is sought after the DACA program, introduced by former US President Barack Obama, was ruled to be illegal by a federal judge in Texas leaving some 640,000 young immigrants vulnerable to deportation.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, welcomed the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling.
Posting on Twitter, Grassley said: “Mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants isn’t a budgetary issue appropriate for reconciliation.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell said: “Democrats will not be able to stuff their most radical amnesty proposals into the reckless taxing and spending spree they are assembling behind closed doors.”
Immigration status rescinded
Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, said: “If the reforms were allowed to proceed in the budget bill – which Democrats can pass with only 51 votes – a future Senate could rescind anyone’s US immigration status on the basis of a simple majority vote.”
“That would be a stunning development, and is further evidence that the policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it. It is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” she added.
Following the Senate’s rejection of immigration reforms, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “Members of Congress are committed to getting US immigration reform done.”
However, Congress has struggled to pass immigration reform in recent times, with the last major reform occurring in 1986.
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