Maribel Hastings and David Torres
For a second time, the Senate Parliamentarian rejected the Democrats’ so-called Plan B to try to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. It seems the Parliamentarian will not give a green light to any language that involves the conferral of green cards to the undocumented population.
That’s how strict the criteria of just one person is, whose presence and role in a democracy is out of step with the goals of the majority, something that now raises doubts about the reaches of an electoral system like the United States’. How to explain to voters—who, among other things, show majority support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—that their opinion doesn’t matter, compared to the “legal criteria” of one lone Senate aide?
The second vital question is: what happens now? If there is no way to include legalization language in the budget reconciliation plan, since the Parliamentarian has already been more than clear that she will not approve anything that bestows green cards; and if the Democrats believe that an immigration reform bill doesn’t have sufficient votes to be approved, it’s safe to assume that—as in so many prior occasions—the undocumented immigrants will have to implement their own plans B, C, D… Z, and those to come, to continue surviving in this country, taking care of their families, always with the specter of potential deportation hanging over them.
Basically, on top of all of the laboral, economic, health, food, housing, and tax-paying juggling, areas in which they fully comply, undocumented immigrants have had to learn to circumvent the ongoing threat of deportation. And even then, they have found a way to resist and continue, despite all of the threats on the one hand, and promises on the other, that they have had to absorb as a community, while the political class talks incessantly about a reality that they do not know, much less understand.
But it is also predictable that they are beginning to look at alternatives that do not include green cards; that is, temporary measures that protect certain groups from deportation, whether it be Dreamers, farmworkers, TPS beneficiaries, and other essential workers. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security is about to announce the language reinforcing protections for Dreamers with DACA, the executive order signed by Barack Obama in 2012 that protects this group from deportation and gives access to work permits.
Basically, on top of all of the laboral, economic, health, food, housing, and tax-paying juggling, areas in which they fully comply, undocumented immigrants have had to learn to circumvent the ongoing threat of deportation.
However, while there seem to be many “options” to momentarily save the situation of undocumented people, they are not permanent; and this migratory limbo continues to become even larger, as time passes and families become more entrenched in this country—without the security of being able to stay here legitimately. This peril is what the U.S. political class does not appreciate or understand, much less alone legal advisor in the Senate.
The issue of immigration reform, of course, has been exploited by both political parties, especially in recent history.
The Republicans use it to stir up prejudice, racism, and a false nationalism among their base; and the Democrats use it, for their side, to accuse Republicans of being obstructionist and racist.
The Democrats, for their part, promise the sun, moon, and stars, and in each election claim they will achieve this reform if they win the White House and Congress. But when they win, the well-worn excuses begin: there’s no Republican support; there’s no support from conservative Democrats and they don’t want to put their tight margins in jeopardy in the next election; the situation at the border has complicated the landscape; there are other issues that take priority … and so on and so on. Add to the list of excuses the rejection by the Parliamentarian.
Now they have practically all of the power, and even still this immigration anxiety continues to go on, unnecessarily. That’s why we repeat that despite everything, even the plans to incorporate them into regular society, undocumented people have always had their own goals, without anyone else’s political endorsement. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here; they would not have left their countries; they would not be—right now—dodging the unintelligible ups and downs of a democracy in which just one person can decide the future of millions of human beings.
But if the Democrats really wanted to prioritize this issue—and keep the anti-immigrant people from taking advantage of the anguish of millions—they would do it, just as they have with other topics. Health care reform, which certainly displaced immigration reform in 2009, when Obama took power, cost the Democrats the midterms and they lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010. However, they created access to health insurance for millions of people. And Obama was reelected in 2012. But history is capricious and tends to be costly for those who don’t revisit it, once in a while.
Essentially, when the Democrats want to invest political capital and take risks, they do it. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with immigration reform, and there is always an excuse to keep putting it off. If they wait for the optimal time, it will never come. In fact, right now, with a Democratic President and Congress, is the best shot they have had at such a historic opportunity that would change the lives of millions of people who have always been essential in this country.
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