President Biden said he backs Democrats’ efforts to include immigration reform measures in their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.
The commander-in-chief made the comment outside the White House Thursday before leaving for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., with first lady Jill Biden, whom he was accompanying to an appointment for a procedure on her foot.
“It went very well,” he said of his meeting with 11 Democratic lawmakers earlier that day, where the group discussed including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people originally promised such under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in their budget agreement.
“I think we should include in the reconciliation bill: the immigration proposal,” he added, offering an endorsement of what the group of lawmakers had suggested to him.
Biden made the statement immediately after the meeting, which included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), two of the leaders on the Senate side for immigration reform, as well as Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Hispanic Caucus Chairman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and fellow California Democratic Reps. Linda Sánchez, Zoe Lofgren, Pete Aguilar and Lucille Roybal-Allard attended on behalf of the lower house of Congress.
Lawmakers told the press afterward that Biden had backed their efforts during the meeting as well.
“He knows the challenges we face. He’s with us. He made it clear to us, unequivocally clear that he stands with our efforts,” Durbin said of the commander-in-chief.
“Reconciliation is the only option,” Nadler told reporters, stressing the urgency of getting the matter passed by whatever means necessary — in this case, without any Republican support for it.
In a statement, Cortez Masto offered some details of what items Democrats could choose to include in the $3.5 trillion package, such as a pathway to citizenship for farmworkers, essential workers from the pandemic and those who already hold Temporary Protected Status.
“For decades, politicians have refused to act to fix our broken immigration system, and this is our opportunity to ensure we are treating workers and families with dignity. A reconciliation bill that balances border security with a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm and essential workers will create jobs, boost our economy, and lift up working families across Nevada and the nation,” the Nevada Democrat said.
The meeting came days after Biden admitted that Democrats were looking to include a pathway to citizenship in their $3.5 trillion budget package.
“There must be a pathway to citizenship,” he said Sunday, “whether it needs to be in [reconciliation] remains to be seen.”
Democrats and immigrant advocates have felt a newfound urgency to address the legal status of Dreamers in recent weeks, following a federal judge in Texas ruling earlier this month that the program was unlawful.
The judge also blocked new applicants, leaving those who are still waiting to hear back from the program in limbo.
It was not originally clear if addressing the DACA program, passed in 2012 to give work permits to and protect from deportation people brought illegally to the US as minors, would be possible through Democrats’ reconciliation deal.
Budget reconciliation allows the majority party to bypass the legislative filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
Biden split his infrastructure package, a centerpiece of his post-COVID agenda, into two parts for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focused on hard infrastructure, while the second, the “American Families Plan,” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
Republicans took issue with the second package, which they argue stretches the definition of infrastructure. The first package, meanwhile, took a backseat to a bipartisan deal brokered in the Senate.
The GOP negotiators on the compromise agreement said Wednesday that they reached an agreement on the details of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill — salvaging a blueprint brokered last month by Biden.
The Senate then voted 67-32 to advance debate on the critical legislation later that evening.
Asked Friday about the matter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) concurred with Biden: “I do believe immigration should be in reconciliation — some piece of that in the reconciliation [bill].”