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On Citizenship, Democrats Gear Up to Get to “Yes” while Republicans Gear Up to Get to “No”

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Will Congress enact legislation this year that will put millions of undocumented immigrants on pathways to citizenship? We believe they will. But only if Democrats use their power, blow past the bad faith of Republican posers, and include legalization measures on the next vehicle to go through on reconciliation. 

Democrats gear up to get to “Yes”

Roll Call reports that Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders has included funds for legalization as part of the Senate Democrats’ budget outline – a first step towards inclusion of citizenship measures in the next reconciliation package. Roll Call writes:

There’s $150 billion set aside for immigration programs, mostly for what appears to be a pathway to lawful permanent resident status for certain protected categories such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries, farmworkers, essential workers and those with Temporary Protected Status from certain countries.

Explanatory documents argue that including such policies in a reconciliation bill would likely pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian, citing a 2005 precedent for Senate-passed provisions to increase the number of immigrant visas in similar fashion.

Meanwhile, community mobilizations continue to encourage Democrats to deliver on citizenship for millions. In Virginia, advocates are calling on Senators Kaine and Warner to pass citizenship this year, with or without Republican support. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, hundreds rallied last weekend. In Wisconsin, activists are marching from Milwaukee to Madison. And in Washington, DC, Faith in Action’s ongoing Fast for Freedom is supporting several dozen fasters drawing attention to citizenship – just a stone’s throw away from the U.S. Congress.

Republicans gear up to get to “No”

All you need to know is that Senator John Cornyn is the lead negotiator. Like he always does, Senator Cornyn positions himself as a player interested in compromise in order to scuttle any compromise and then blame Democrats. He pretends yes and votes no on the Senate floor. He’s done so in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2018. He’s so well known for this maneuver, it’s been dubbed the Cornyn Con. Check out Cornyn’s latest comments to Beltway outlet Punchbowl:

Right now, there’s a proposal to deal with DACA, a bipartisan border solutions bill, if there’s a deal to be had on [migrant] farm workers, and TPS recipients … I’m not sure where TPS figures in all this. But that’s the current proposal, so we’ll see if we can agree on some parameters for those three things: DACA, farm workers and the border. I’ve agreed to focus on those three things and see if we can come up with some parameters that would make sense and that I can support.

We know what comes next. We predict Cornyn will come up with a proposal that he knows Democrats will reject. It won’t be designed to be the basis for a bipartisan breakthrough, it will be designed to be the basis for a partisan blame game.

Remember that just last week, Cornyn called the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act – legislative measures that passed the House earlier this year with bipartisan support – “radical.” Americans support citizenship for these populations by a 80% – 12% margin. Radical, you say? The only thing “radical” is opposing legislation backed by 4 out of 5 Americans. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, 

Democrats are ready to get to ‘yes’ and Republicans are setting the stage to get to ‘no.’ Democrats know it is good policy and good politics to deliver on solutions the American people support. The Trump GOP know their politics, too. They want to stop Democrats from delivering on a promise, and are teeing up xenophobia and racism as their election-year go-to in 2022. 

To win reelection and save our democracy, Democrats need popular, concrete accomplishments. Citizenship for millions of immigrants who are American in all but paperwork is one of those priorities. They must use every ounce of their power to deliver.