Renewed hopes for immigration reform action in ‘21

Senator Bob Menendez

By Ray O'Hanlon

At a moment in time when green card-holding Irish, and Irish-born naturalized U.S. citizens, are getting a taste of what it's like to be undocumented in terms of being able to travel to Ireland, the prospect of immigration reform seems to be as remote as ever.

But perhaps not as remote as some have been thinking.

According to a report in The Hill newspaper, Democrats are vowing to move forward with immigration reform if presumptive nominee Joe Biden is elected president and the party also takes back the Senate in this fall’s elections.

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"The prospect would set up a bruising battle in Congress next year, one that Democrats shied away from in 2009 and 2010 after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 and Democrats expanded their Senate majority and controlled the House," the report stated.

According to the report, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said immigration reform legislation “should be” at the front of the Democratic to-do list should control of the Senate flip, while Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) was more definitive.

Durbin, the report added, noted that Biden and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have both pledged to make immigration reform the first issue raised after a successful November.

“They’ve all said it’s first up,” Durbin said in remarks before the Senate left for the July 4 recess.

“It’s definitely on the agenda,” said Menendez, who said it would help the economy.

“Billions more for the economy, Social Security, the wages of all Americans rose. On an economic basis alone, it was a compelling issue,” he said.

The Hill report pointed out that Biden last month promised “on day one” of his presidency to “send a bill to Congress that creates a clear road map to citizenship for Dreamers and 11 million undocumented people who are already strengthening our nation.”

Biden said the legislation is “long overdue.”

The report noted that there had been little public discussion of Democrats' plans for immigration reform in 2021.

"This is partly because the focus has been on the coronavirus pandemic and calls for police reform, but political considerations are a part of the atmosphere. Talking up plans to push a path to citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country could give President Trump, whose approval rating is hovering around 40 percent, a chance to go on the offensive.

"The president made illegal immigration one of his top issues in the 2016 campaign and won a legal victory last month when the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 to allow the administration to expedite deportations of asylum-seekers."

Senator Menendez, a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that negotiated the 2013 Senate immigration bill that passed with 68 votes (but faltered in the House) said it can be a template for legislation next year.

“Not too many issues here of such controversy gets [68] votes. A lot in there should be revisited,” he said.

According to The Hill report, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the 2013 Gang of Eight, has said he is willing to work with Democrats again on a comprehensive immigration reform bill if he wins reelection in November.

Like Menendez, Graham says the 2013 bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, and would have protected immigrants who came to the country as children from deportation, could be a template for negotiations next year.

Graham said he would play “the same role I’ve always played.”

“I want to solve a broken immigration system. I’m proud of the efforts of the past. I’m not giving up on this. God knows we need a better immigration system, and the 11 million, we’ll treat them fairly,” he said.

Graham said the 2013 bill “worked for me,” though he also acknowledged “things have changed” in the past seven years.

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