By Ted Hewson and Micah Rosenberg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It was a bold inaugural salvo from the incoming administration of President Joe Biden: an immigration bill that would open the path to citizenship for about 11 million people living illegally in the country. But even the Democratic senator who led the charge admitted Thursday that passing it would be “a heretic act”.
The senator, longtime immigrant rights champion Robert Menendez, said in a video call with trade groups, labor unions and migrant advocates that he would need to convince a wider swath of America to support the measure, while supporting the American business community. Will be in For this “you have to push with everything you’ve got.”
Biden has made the immigration reform bill the focal point of his efforts to reverse the staunch immigration legacy of former President Donald Trump. This indicates their willingness to spend significant political capital on an issue that is a priority for businesses, labor unions, faith groups and activists.
In addition to legalization measures to qualify immigrants, the proposed bill would allow some immigrants who were deported during the Trump administration to apply for reunification for family or other humanitarian reasons. The proposal also increases the number of available legal work visas.
Biden, who took office on Wednesday, faces long odds, however, to win a sufficiently divided Congress in Congress to pass the bill, congressional aides, experts and advocates told Reuters.
The Biden administration released a summary of the bill on Wednesday, but the text – which is expected to have hundreds of pages – has not been made public.
Menendez said that Biden was committed to passing immigration reform and would not take the measure if it were purely a symbolic statement of Biden’s position.
“If I thought it was just a messaging bill that was going to go somewhere entirely, I wouldn’t have lent my name to it,” Menendez said. “After being, yes, it will be tough.”
Control over the Senate is split 50–50, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a vote-breaking vote. Democrats would need to win over 10 Republicans to avoid a “filibuster”, a procedural hurdle that could delay or block legislation to vote.
Democrats control the House of Representatives, but by less margin than in the previous Congress.
Challenges are already on display in a divided Senate as Democrats and Republicans negotiate the terms of their power-sharing agreement. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, has assured that the Senate will retain Filmbuster according to his office.
A White House spokesman said the bill was Biden’s approach to immigration reform. MPs from both sides of the aisle will need to “come to the table so that we can finally get it done.”
Trump, a Republican, has Biden’s immigration push after a four-year breakdown on legal and illegal immigration. Many Republican lawmakers supported Trump’s tough immigration policies.
Republican Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted Monday – before Biden was sworn in – that the new president is “wasting no time trying to implement his radical immigration agenda.” He called the bill a “total apology”, saying “there is no concern for the health or safety of Americans, and zero enforcement.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who was involved in bipartisan immigration reform talks in 2013 before finally quitting the effort, called Biden’s bill a “non-starter” in a statement this week.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday that he had “reached out to half a dozen Republicans on immigration and they are open to dialogue.”
Frank Shairi, executive director of Voice of Pro-immigrant America, said Democratic immigration measures could lead to greater success, including spending bills or passing epidemic relief packages that pro-America voices.
He said another option would be to abolish filmmaking or use other procedural moves to pass a bill with only 51 votes.
Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who served as Rubio’s spokesperson during immigration talks in 2013, said the bill is unlikely to win over Republicans, but could evolve into a more influential proposal.
Reuters / Ipsos polling shows support for immigrants to pass on the path of citizenship in the country, a survey in February last year since 2014, with 60% of Americans in favor of it.
Some advocates argue that Americans are now more aware of the contribution caused by the epidemic by immigrant workers.
“Who stepped into the plate when we were all locked in our homes and who put their lives on the line?” Immigration Attorney David Leopold, who served as a volunteer adviser to the Biden campaign. “unskilled workers.”
(Reporting by Ted Hewson in Washington and Micah Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin and Arora Ellis)
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