Senate Dems’ Immigration Bid Suffers Key Setback

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerges from a Democratic Caucus meeting as the Senate continues to grapple with end-of-year tasks at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Senate parliamentarian has said a Democratic effort to let millions of immigrants remain temporarily in the U.S. should be dropped from an expansive social and environment bill, people informed of the decision said Thursday, dealing another blow to a long-time priority of the party and migrant advocates.

The ruling by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, all but certainly means Democrats will have to drop the proposal from their 10-year, $2 trillion package of health care, family services and climate change initiatives championed by President Joe Biden.

The people informed of MacDonough’s decision were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Her opinion was no surprise — it was the third time since September that she said Democrats would violate Senate rules by using the legislation to help immigrants and it should fall from the bill. Nonetheless, her decision was a painful setback for progressive and Latino groups hoping to capitalize on party control of the White House and Congress for gains on the issue, which have been elusive in Congress for decades.

The latest proposal would let an estimated 6.5 million immigrants in the U.S. since at least 2010 without legal authorization apply for up to two five-year work permits. The permits would let them hold jobs, avoid deportation and in some instances travel abroad without risking their residency here. Applicants would have to meet background checks and other requirements.

The rejected plan would create no new pathway for those getting work permits to remain in the U.S. permanently. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that 6.5 million migrants would ultimately get the temporary permits and of those, around 3 million would later gain permanent residency because their new status would remove some obstacles in that process.