Inside the push to include a pathway to citizenship in the Dem’s reconciliation package
Some Democrats are finally getting bolder in demanding their initiatives get passed through Congress
Tuesday evening, Rep. Chuy García (D-IL) announced he will not support a budget reconciliation package if it doesn’t include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
García’s move signals a growing shift within the Democratic Party, particularly among progressives, that their initiatives demand decisive action to get passed. The Democratic Party has already dealt with years of complacency, from the constant pursuit of bipartisan support among moderates, to the standstill-inducing rifts between moderates and progressives.
Firm statements like García’s signal what may become more common. Progressives like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, and Ilhan Omar don’t need to separate from the party to get measures passed. They just need to take it over.
García has been advocating for a pathway since he was elected into office in 2018, and it would apply to a broad spectrum of the country’s undocumented population, not just TPS or Green Card holders.
His position, which he released in a statement Tuesday evening, is notable for the stakes. Democrats have just a slim majority in the House. With García’s potential parting in the upcoming vote for the reconciliation bill, it’s unlikely to pass and make it to Biden’s desk.
"A robust and equitable budget reconciliation deal must include a pathway to citizenship for immigrants — our country can’t make a full recovery without it, and I can’t support any deal that leaves so many people in my district behind," said García in the statement.
We cannot wait any longer to fix our immigration system and we need to use any opportunity available to do so—including budget reconciliation—for DACA youth, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential workers.
— Congressman Chuy García (@RepChuyGarcia) July 6, 2021
He added that this package should be used to make history and bring millions the legal status they and their families deserve.
While the Chicago, Illinois rep is not the first to say he supports including immigration provisions in the pending package, he is the first to take such an absolute stance, drawing a line that is expected to become the standard for progressives as deliberations continue — a red line, as The Hill’s Rafael Bernal reported.
García’s statement is also the first — in regards to reconciliation in 2021— to do away with limitations for which immigrants would be eligible.
It is common that organizations and advocates focus on a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) only, but this ignores the hopes for millions who do not fall under the category for whatever reason.
An immigration reform that includes all undocumented immigrants is what García pursues.
“We cannot wait any longer to fix our immigration system and we need to use any opportunity available to do so, including budget reconciliation for DACA youth, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential workers,” García continued.
Over the course of the pandemic, the nation relied on undocumented immigrants to keep the country running. They suffered mass COVID-19 outbreaks at chicken processing centers, and even now, farmworkers are working in triple-digit conditions to keep the nation fed.
“This is crucial for thousands of undocumented essential workers I represent. They sacrificed themselves to keep this country running during the worst of the pandemic and frequently had no access to relief or medical assistance for fear of being deported. We owe it to them,” García continued in his statement.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, who has been vocal on creating a pathway to citizenship for essential workers during the pandemic including farm and factory workers, recently came out with a statement on Twitter, writing that: “Immigration reform should be included in the reconciliation package.”
I had an opportunity to thank essential workers, Dreamers, and their allies who have been fasting for a path to citizenship.@FIAnational raised the consciousness and awareness in the U.S. Congress.
Immigration reform should be included in the reconciliation package. pic.twitter.com/tP2kVmale5
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) June 30, 2021
Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman came out with a statement more in line with García, though without drawing the red line. But that’s not to say a stronger movement isn’t bound to come as voting nears.
“It is past time to ensure our dreamers, TPS holders, essential workers, and undocumented farm workers ahve the stability they need to thrive. Let’s make it a reality this Congress,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
Nearly three quarters of all immigrants in the U.S. workforce are essential workers who helped us get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we recover from the pandemic, we can't leave them behind. That's why I am fighting for a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package.
— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@RepBowman) July 1, 2021
Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Jayapal, who in January showed President Biden what “sweeping” immigration reform really looks like alongside Rep. AOC, has also briefly mentioned her wish to include “a roadmap to citizenship” in the Reconciliation package on Twitter.
Among progressive Senators, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has warned Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) that he will not support a bipartisan infrastructure bill without the reconciliation package.
"Let me be clear: There will not be a bipartisan infrastructure deal without a reconciliation bill that substantially improves the lives of working families and combats the existential threat of climate change," Sanders wrote on Twitter Sunday. "No reconciliation bill, no deal. We need transformative change NOW."
Sanders’ words came a day after Biden backtracked on remarks suggesting he would only support signing a bipartisan bill if a larger reconciliation package was also passed.
Over the past week, the Senate Committee on the Budget, under Chairman Sanders, released a draft of its $6 trillion reconciliation budget blueprint, which includes $126 billion to put immigrants on a pathway to citizenship.
The blueprint’s inclusion of immigration is an important step toward winning congressional passage.
“Putting undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship would result in big economic benefits for all Americans,” wrote the Center for American Progress (CAP) in a in an article arguing that immigration reform can — and should — be done through reconciliation.
“It would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a decade and create just more than 400,000 new jobs. By the end of a decade after passage, all Americans would see higher wages by an annual $600,” CAP continued.
According to García, including a pathway to citizenship in the upcoming reconciliation package has the potential to be the first “meaningful” legislative action on immigration in 35 years.