Republicans sound alarm on Democrats' amnesty push for illegal immigrants in $3.5T budget package

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Republicans are sounding the alarm over a Democratic push to include amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in their budget reconciliation proposal, with the possibility that the effort could get through without the need for any Republican support.

“Conservatives need to focus on a critical fight that hasn’t gotten enough attention: the Democrats’ effort to stuff amnesty into a reconciliation bill,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted Tuesday as part of a lengthy thread.

“Democrats are trying to sneak mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants through Congress under the cover of their budget scheme,” Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., tweeted. “They hope you won’t notice.”

Democrats announced earlier this week they have agreed to a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which would advance a number of top liberal priorities. 

Rep. Pramila Japayal, D-Wash., said Wednesday that the resolution will include a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers, TPS, essential workers, and farmworkers.”

By “Dreamers,” Jayapal was referring to recipients or those eligible for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which protected immigrants who came to the country illegally as children from deportation. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients are those from countries where it is deemed unsafe for them to return due to armed ongoing conflict, environmental disasters or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.”

While it is not clear how the pathway to citizenship would work, past legislation introducing pathways for farmworkers would have made workers eligible if they had worked 400 days or more in a five-year period and passed background checks and included seasonal or temporary work.

Democrats have previously pushed for pathways to citizenship for “essential workers,” calling for President Biden to include such legislation in a prior spending package. At that time, they defined the term broadly – including those who work in sectors such as health care, emergency response, sanitation, restaurant ownership, food preparation, hotel or retail work, landscaping, construction, nanny services and janitorial services, as well as those operating laundromats. 

It is also unclear how many illegal immigrants could be given a pathway to citizenship in such a bill, or what the requirements for them to meet would be; typically similar legislation requires background checks and some fees but often offers immediate residency or protection from deportation. However, the number who could be eligible would certainly be in the millions.

Similar Democratic efforts to get a broad pathway to citizenship have stalled due to a lacking in GOP support, which is typically needed to get bills through. Even Republicans who are open to such legislation have balked at the idea of doing so in the middle of a crisis at the southern border.

However, Democrats may not need Republican support for this effort.

The Democrats have a slim majority in the House, and there is a 50-50 split in the Senate. Because this is a budget resolution bill, the legislation can be passed with only a simple majority and avoiding any GOP filibuster. That would only require the bill gain 51 votes to pass — with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote in the case of a tie.

This means if Democrats can stay united, the bill can pass both chambers. All eyes are therefore on Democrats in tight House districts, and on moderates in the Senate like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Republicans object not only to the measure itself but also its presence in the budget reconciliation bill.

“Granting amnesty, citizenship, voting rights, and welfare for millions of illegal aliens is not just a simple ‘budget’ item,” Cotton said. “But the White House is still trying to force this through.”

Meanwhile, immigration hawks are ramping up their efforts to pressure moderate Democrats to oppose the amnesty push. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which calls for lower levels of immigration overall, has launched a targeted digital ad campaign linking the border crisis to the pushes for citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The campaign is targeting Democrats in tight House races and asking if they support the push to include immigration measures in the budget bill. FAIR is also pointing to polling it says shows voters in Arizona and West Virginia are less likely to vote for Sinema and Manchin  if they support the immigration measures.

On Tuesday, Cotton used his thread to link the border crisis to the push for an amnesty and warned his fellow conservatives that they must oppose the move as best they can.

“They want open borders, no immigration enforcement, and amnesty. Under the Biden administration, they’ve already achieved the first two,” he said. “We can’t let them have amnesty, too.”

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