The Democrat-led Senate unanimously passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a flagship bill containing a streamlined version of President Biden’s “Build Back Better “reform agenda. Provisions in the bill, which is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives this week, aim to reduce the deficit, lower prices for prescription drugs and address the climate crisis, but it contains no immigration measures.
The bill contains no measures to address visa shortages, improve processing, legalize unauthorized persons, reform immigration courts or hold Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) accountable for corruption and abuse.
Why is Immigration Reform not Included in President Biden’s Election Agenda?
A year ago, the Build Back Better (BBB) project was gaining momentum, even though it was only an agenda for Democrats. On 9. in August, Senate Democrats unveiled a 3.5 trillion package, which included billion 107 billion for immigration reform.
To be passed, the bill would not only have to have the support of all 50 Democrats, but also satisfy the “Byrd rule” to be passed as part of the budget regulations. After several rounds, the Senate parliamentarian removed most of the immigration provisions.
The failure of the Byrd rule was fatal because it meant that the immigration regulations would have to have 60 votes to pass-an impossible number to achieve with an evenly divided Senate.
Should we rejoice when the bill so clearly excludes immigration?
In December, intra-party disagreements brought the BBB to its knees, and in particular leading moderate Democrats Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) were not on the bandwagon.
Negotiations were suspended. There were virtually no visible moves until late July, when Senator Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement.
There is no doubt that ruling out any positive immigration reform is a major failure for the Democrats. For a party and a president who have long highlighted the crucial role that immigrants have played in the growth and success of the country, as well as in the recovery from the pandemic, the exclusion of immigration is a blatant failure. It is also a capitulation to political pressure for Democrats to be accused of being weak on the issue of border enforcement.
The Democrats’ refusal to promote immigration reform in the bill cannot be attributed solely to the Byrd rule. In 2021, the MEP expressed no opinion on the Byrd rule on the reform package, which would have restored and improved the processing of family visas based on employment and diversity. This left the door open for Senators Manchin and Schumer to include it in their agreement.
But with the November elections fast approaching, many moderate Democrats were simply willing to vote for legalization and other immigration reforms. It is true that many Republicans were expected to demand votes on controversial amendments that would exclude and scapegoat refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants.
When the inflation reduction bill went to debate, it seemed almost inevitable that some of the 60 or so immigration-damaging amendments to the bill would pass. A handful of Democrats had already joined Senator Lankford and other Republicans on a bill aimed at stopping President Biden’s attempt to overturn Trump’s policy of banning and deporting asylum seekers, known as Section 42. As many other Democrats expressed concern, CNN called it a rebellion against Biden.
To reinforce the threat, it was announced on the first day of the debate that Senator Lankford’s amendment to Section 42 would require only 50 votes to pass, even though it clearly violated the Byrd rule and should have required 60 votes.
Many Democratic senators had called for a general party pact to vote against any amendment, and Senators Menendez and Padilla called for the party to protect immigrants from being used as “political pawns.” Interestingly, all 50 senators voted against the amendment.
The fact that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) submitted a similar amendment to Section 42, which required 60 votes to pass, helped ensure that moderate Democrats, who are vulnerable in the next election, could vote for this amendment knowing that it would not get 60 votes and vote against Lankford’s amendment.
This caused a stir-Senator Lankford, in a speech on the Senate floor, accused Democrats of using a procedural trick to reject his amendment-“that’s why people are so angry with Washington DC.”
AILA urged senators to oppose the Section 42 amendment. In recent weeks, AILA has urged its members and the public to take action, resulting in more than 8,000 messages to Congress alone on this issue.
In general, we have called on Congress to” not harm ” immigrants. We worked with coalition partners to stop an amendment that would have stopped the hiring of IRS agents until 18,000 additional border guards were hired-an absurd proposal given reports of corruption and abuse in the border guards and the severe difficulties DHS is having in hiring qualified agents.
Equally ludicrous were two amendments, which were also rejected and would have shifted 500 million from the bill intended to ameliorate climate disasters, to the unnecessary construction of a border wall and interior law enforcement-none of which was supported by a justification for the need.
In the end, all the anti-immigrant proposals put to a vote were blocked. Thanks to all the senators who defended their positions and protected immigrants from these disgusting and hateful policies.
After two decades of defending the rights of immigrants and refugees, I cannot remember another time when immigrants were exposed to such grave risks and came out unscathed. At a time in U.S. history when xenophobia is unacceptably high, we should celebrate the passage of this bill without harming immigration.