The inclusion of language that would create a path to legalization in the Senate budget plan opens another chapter, this time during the presidency of Democrat Joe Biden, along the obstacle-filled marathon road that is the quest for immigration reform to regularize millions.
It would seem that everything has come together, from the consistent, pro-immigrant discourse; to the decisions to counteract the most draconian anti-immigrant actions of the prior administration; and the political opportunity of the moment, one of the most likely, for now, to achieve something historic.
But in the face of the Republican refusal to consider legalization bills, arguing that the border is porous and using immigrants as scapegoats, blaming them now for the spread of COVID-19—and in the face of a Democratic side with a fragile majority where moderate senators fear the immigration issue just one year before the midterm elections—Democratic leadership is betting on the budget process to be the mechanism to try to advance reform that addresses previous Democratic promises, made over decades, that never came to be.
This budget reconciliation is now being presented as one of the last options to take on the defense of millions of immigrants who have given everything to this country and have seen how the options to obtain a legalization that never comes have been narrowing. And there are a lot of expectations.
But between word and deed is a wide gulf. And although this is based on the premise that the idea is to try to regularize a good number of undocumented immigrants, particularly Dreamers, people with TPS, farm workers, and certain other essential workers, the reality is that we don’t yet know who will benefit, nor what mechanism will be used to achieve this regularization.
On top of that, the Senate Parliamentarian is the one who will decide if immigration language can be included in budget reconciliation, or not. In other words, including the legalization language is like a roll of the dice. And is in this game of politics, so hackneyed as to be nearly perverse, in which the anxiety of not knowing whether there will be benevolence exhibited toward these most vulnerable sectors intensifies even more, it is always other people, without a good understanding of the drama of the migration phenomenon, who decide the destiny of millions of human beings.
We have already repeated ad nauseum the economic, political, moral, and humanitarian arguments for legalization. It is also already known that this year will mark the 35th anniversary of the last (imperfect) amnesty of 1986. And, it is also a fact that the Democrats have spent decades promoting this elusive reform, whether they were in the majority or minority, occupying the White House, or not; and when this was the case, at the moment of truth…nothing happened.
it is also a fact that the Democrats have spent decades promoting this elusive reform, whether they were in the majority or minority, occupying the White House, or not; and when this was the case, at the moment of truth…nothing happened.
This scenario replete with historic indecisions is the one that causes the most worry at this precise moment, because this game of ceding ground to avoid losing political capital has made the Democrats fall short on immigration.
For years they have been able to, and with good reason, lay the blame on a Republican Party controlled by its most xenophobic and racist wing, which only uses the issue to rile up its more recalcitrant base. But it’s also true that when the Democrats controlled both the Congress and the White House, they let various opportunities pass, whether because of internal divisions or because other matters were the “priorities.”
Well then, this is precisely the moment that immigration priorities cannot be left adrift again. That would be cruel, inhumane, and unjust. And no one wants a deceived country.
The only constant in this story has been the determination of the immigrant community that continues to look for ways to move their families forward, although the promises of politicians seem to just blow with the wind. It is this exact example that brings the American concept of a “nation of immigrants” to life, from beginning to end.
We are once again facing the possibility of action. The next weeks and months will reveal whether there is an advancement in the immigration marathon, or if it’s another false start.
Maribel Hastings and David Torres
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