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U.S. Senator Bob Casey
Immigration, particuarly DACA, could be on the lame-duck docket, but it's uncertain where temperature stands. Sen. Casey says a broader approach is in order. Photo by Nigel Thompson / AL DÍA News

Immigration reform unlikely through a piecemeal approach, Senator Bob Casey says

Congress considers reviving talks of Dreamers in the lame-duck session, but a bipartisan deal could be an uphill battle.

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Time is getting scarce for Democrats in the House who hope to put forth a solution for immigration on the table before the end of this year and a new Congress with one Republican wing. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told advocates that his “focus is on Dreamers,” referring to the subset of migrant-born children on U.S. soil, who enjoy protections in two-year intervals, according to reporting by Roll Call. 

“Not only are they in a bizarre and disturbing state of limbo, [Dreamers] are nowhere really, but you also don’t have the opportunity for them to get on a path to citizenship, and therefore be paying into systems like Social Security,” Sen. Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, noted.

The lame-duck session could be one of the House Democrats’s last opportunities to craft language while the balance of power tilts in their favor, but it remains unclear whether Congress is ready to adopt sweeping legislation.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is Obama’s fortress for migrant children permitted to renew temporary permits, but even his policy, noted as historic at the time, wanes in its ability to protect immigrants. 

An overwhelmed processing system, compounded with the number of renewals, have forced the court’s gavels to paralyze DACA and ostensibly move Congress toward a long term solution.

But what remains in the meantime is uncertainty. Protections are no longer guaranteed via DACA, and the justice system is not keen on continued processing of new applications. 

“One question going forward is do you try to do it all in one bill?” continued Sen. Casey, who questioned if “you should try to take pieces of it and legislate on those? But it’s an area of unfinished business that every Democrat has to be concerned about.” 

House Democrats had an edge for the first two years of the Biden administration — which proved productive for getting several pieces of legislation to the President’s desk — but immigration continues in limbo.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was one example of a piecemeal approach, despite its breadth. 

Biden’s administration managed to strengthen background checks, close the boyfriend loophole, and enforce red flag laws while also putting dollars in schools for violence prevention programs, but it’s a far cry from the national ban the president had originally requested. 

Some legislators, including Sen. Casey, called it the bare minimum, though a start to curb heightened levels of mass shooting incidents in the country — including many instances where the gunman sought the deadly weapon legally and successfully. 

But Sen. Casey wonders if the same could be said of immigration, and spoke to the last round of negotiations when four Democrats engaged in negotiations with four Republicans to reach a consensus, although the bill never reached the House. 

Asked whether there was any chance of a resolution for immigration reform, Sen. Casey said he doesn’t think “it’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, in the next couple of months, but we gotta stay at it.” 

“It’s a place we should start at the very beginning of the new Congress.”

The Senator also alluded to the possibility of changing the filibuster rules to circumvent the required minimum Republican vote and avoid a standstill, but maintained negotiations should take top priority. 

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