Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members said that President Joe Biden expressed support for passing certain immigration provisions through reconciliation if Republicans continue obstructing progress, Politico reports. Biden made the commitment during a White House meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris and CHC members on Tuesday, the group’s first official meeting with the president.
While the report said that Biden “did not commit to an ‘exclusive list’” of bills, members pointed to pathways to citizenship passed in recent House bills. “This is huge,” tweeted Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. “Opens the door to a breakthrough this year. Failure is not an option, Dems. This is the year to legalize millions.”
Politico reports that CHC members “specifically asked for a pathway for Dreamers, farmworkers, essential workers and Temporary Protected Status recipients to be on the list.” These pathways were passed by the House in bipartisan votes over a month ago.
The Dream and Promise Act, which would put Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders onto a path to citizenship, passed 228 to 197, with support from nine Republicans. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act protecting farmworkers passed 247 to 174, winning support from 30 Republicans.
The commitment also comes following a recent letter led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Alex Padilla, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, and California Rep. Ted Lieu calling on Biden to prioritize the inclusion of their immigration bill in his upcoming infrastructure package. That legislation would legalize millions of undocumented essential workers.
“For the past year, essential workers have further proven themselves to be a truly important part of our nation’s critical infrastructure and crucial part of the backbone of our society,” legislators wrote. “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security even designated essential workers as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. These workers have kept America fed, healthy, and safe throughout this pandemic, and they will be just as essential to our nation’s economic recovery.”
New Mexico Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez said following the meeting that “[w]e can expect the president to be talking about the economic benefits of the immigration bill,” Politico reported. “According to [CHC chair Raul] Ruiz, Biden expressed a ‘strong sentiment’ about getting immigration reform ‘done once and for all,’ through whatever means available,” the report continued.
In the letter led by Warren, Padilla, Castro, and Lieu, legislators told Biden that “[i]f Republicans continue to refuse to advance immigration legislation supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people, the next reconciliation package on jobs and infrastructure should include citizenship for essential workers.” Legislators noted that “Speaker Pelosi has already indicated her support for including immigration legislation in legislative packages advanced through budget reconciliation given the clear ‘case about the budget implications of immigration.’”
The meeting comes as immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream is launching a five-figure digital ad campaign demanding Democratic senators and Biden prioritize a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth, temporary holders, and farmworkers. The ads are set to target Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“We can and must pass citizenship for millions this year,” UWD Executive Director Greisa Martinez Rosas said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “Now is the time for President Biden and Senate Democrats to demonstrate the moral and bold leadership it takes to pursue every opportunity to deliver, including a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and essential workers in Biden’s American Jobs package.”