A rally against deportations by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency in 2019 in Richmond. (VCU Capital News Service)
Virginia immigration advocacy groups are urging Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, to use the budget reconciliation process to pass immigration reform bill H.R.6 rather than continue to push for bipartisan support.
“We can’t have a patchwork immigration system in the United States,” said Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington at a press conference last week organized by New Virginia Majority. “We have to have comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, and the federal government, specifically the United States’ Senate, needs to act.”
The sweeping bill, called the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, has already passed through the House. It would offer both protection from deportation and a pathway to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, TPS holders, and those with Deferred Enforced Departure.
But the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would require a 60 vote majority that looks less and less attainable as bipartisan deliberation continues. The slow pace of talks has advocates pushing for Senate Democrats to explore an alternative path: budget reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that would sidestep a potential filibuster by including the reform in budget bills, which can pass with a simple majority. They’re targeting Kaine and Warner in their advocacy because they both sit on the Senate’s budget committee.
“Although we all have this hope for bipartisan support, that doesn’t mean we need it in order to pass something this year,” said Monica Sarmiento, executive director of the VA Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “Since both Sen. Warner and Sen. Kaine sit on the Senate Budget Committee, we need their leadership to be outspoken and say, ‘It’s ok if only Democrats vote for a pathway to citizenship for our community, because our community deserves something this year.’”
Kaine said in a statement that he would prefer a bipartisan approach, but is open to reconciliation if talks continue to stall. “We are currently having good-faith discussions with our Republican colleagues to see if we can get to a bipartisan immigration bill with 60 votes,” he said. “However, if Republicans do not want to provide much needed relief to Dreamers, TPS holders, and other immigrants who helped our country through the pandemic, then Democrats will need to consider using reconciliation to move forward.”
Sen. Warner has said he’s supportive of the bill but has not commented specifically on reconciliation.
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