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The New York Times

Biden signals flexibility on immigration reform

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that he wants to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. Yet as he prepares to push for the most far-reaching reform of the nation’s immigration laws, he and his advisers have begun to show that they are willing to consider more targeted methods that could grant citizenship to smaller and more discrete groups. of immigrants living in the United States without legal permission. On Tuesday, in an open forum on CNN, the president declared that these efforts would be acceptable “in the meantime.” On Wednesday, in a private phone call with activists, Biden’s top immigration advisers said they supported what they called a “multi-train” strategy, which could focus on granting citizenship to “dreamers,” the young immigrants who were brought in. to the country of children; farm workers who have worked on American soil for years; and others. Smaller bills could move forward as the president tries to build support for the larger legislation, which is scheduled to unveil Thursday, according to two people on the call. If Biden decides to move one step at a time, it seems unlikely he will anger the most powerful immigration advocacy groups, who are willing to accept more pragmatic strategies after suffering spectacular defeats under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. For more than two decades, these activists have tried in vain to get the passage of a comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws, which would create a path to citizenship for the majority of immigrants living in the United States without legal permission. a faster route for dreamers, greater access to visas for highly skilled workers and a new program for seasonal agricultural workers. Biden is expected to face even more difficulties than his predecessors in winning the support of a Republican Party that bolstered its opposition to immigration during the Trump administration. While activists are willing to allow Biden to try to get a bipartisan deal this year, they have warned they won’t wait forever. “We want 11 million people to be legal residents. That is our primary goal, ”said Frank Sharry, CEO of America’s Voice and a veteran of immigration wars in the nation’s capital for more than 30 years. “But we cannot leave empty-handed. We are not going to adopt an all or nothing mentality. We have to make some progress. ” For those like Sharry, that’s a sea change, and it could spell fierce debates about whether Democrats should use parliamentary tactics in the Senate to impose individual immigration measures without Republican support. Activists are mobilizing for other bills that would grant legal residency to “dreamers,” farm workers, immigrants who received temporary protected status after fleeing war and natural disasters, and “ essential workers ”who live in the United States illegally and have been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. In public, the White House insists that Congress should pass the president’s extensive immigration reform. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stated this week that Biden was insisting on far-reaching changes because “they all need to be addressed, that’s why he proposed them together.” Furthermore, the main proponents of the Biden legislation in Congress – New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and California Representative Linda Sanchez – say abandoning the broader effort before it even begins would be a mistake. On Thursday morning, Menendez and Sanchez are expected to reveal more details about the president’s legislation after it is presented in the House of Representatives. A Democratic aide with information on the legislation said that if immigration advocates are only asking for “half a loaf of bread,” they shouldn’t be surprised when they end up going home with just one slice. “We have an economic and moral obligation to pass a big, bold and inclusive immigration reform, one that leaves no one out,” Menendez said Wednesday afternoon. He criticized the defenders for not being willing to fight for legislation that would ultimately grant legal residency to the entire immigrant population of the country. “We must not make concessions from the beginning. We are not going to start with two million undocumented people instead of eleven million, ”he declared. “We are never going to win a debate that we do not have the courage to initiate. We must present our arguments in favor of a bold, inclusive and lasting immigration reform ”. For decades, the question of how to implement successful reform to the nation’s immigration system has eluded lawmakers in Washington. The last time a major immigration law was enacted was in 1990, when President George Bush expanded legal immigration into the United States, before an explosion of illegal crossings on the Southwest border unleashed over the next 20 years. . The rise in illegal border crossings sparked calls for greater vigilance by conservatives, even as pending legal immigration cases created a growing crisis for businesses seeking workers and for families seeking refuge from violence and disasters in their countries of origin. For nearly three decades, immigration advocates have spoken out in favor of a single comprehensive bill with elements that could unite Democrats and Republicans, labor unions and big business, business-minded conservatives and liberals who support immigration. However, none of those efforts were successful. Despite Bush’s support, the Senate and House of Representatives failed to reach an agreement in 2006, and the 2007 legislation also failed to pass the Senate. In 2013, Obama won bipartisan approval in the Senate for immigration reform, with a vote of 68 to 32, only to be later ignored by the Republican-controlled lower house. In the past four years, President Donald Trump has monopolized a piece of the conservative side of the equation – border security – through strict restrictions on asylum seekers and the partial construction of a border wall. Biden won the presidency in part because of a promise he made to regain bipartisanship and his claim that his longstanding relationships in the Senate would help bridge the partisan gap that has deepened in recent years. Psaki stated that the president has outlined “the principles of what we think the proposal should include” in hopes of addressing the root causes of immigration problems. Nonetheless, immigration advocates say the record of failure has inspired a change in strategy this year. “We are talking about a fight that we have fought for three decades,” said Lorella Praeli, president of Community Change Action. “I’m not interested in beating around the bush. I am determined to reach the last consequences and generate concrete changes ”. Praeli and other proponents praised Biden, Menendez and Sanchez for their broader bill. But they also called on the president to promise that he will also use a budget tool known as reconciliation to enact smaller components of the legislation while promoting the larger initiative. Under Senate rules, legislation that significantly affects the nation’s budget can be passed with just one majority vote, thus avoiding obstructionist rules that require the support of 60 senators. Now that the Senate is evenly divided, this would give Democrats the ability to pass budget reconciliation bills without Republican support and with the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, if they can stick together. Immigration supporters claim that some of the efforts aimed at granting legal residency to some immigrants living in the United States illegally could be passed under reconciliation rules, which are sometimes incomprehensible and designed to block pure political measures. of the bills that supposedly seek to manage public spending and taxes. Since newly recognized legal residents would affect tax revenue and government benefits, the groups say immigration legislation could be adapted as a budget measure. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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