Senate Democrats have launched an ambitious, politically fraught effort to smash through decades of legislative inaction on immigration reform and provide a direct pathway to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants in America.
If the measures become law, they would reshape the legal landscape for immigrants, potentially providing the biggest overhaul of U.S. immigration statutes since the Reagan administration and fulfilling a key pledge President Joe Biden made during the 2020 campaign.
Details have yet to be provided. Passage is far from certain and viewed as unlikely by some observers. Once finalized, the measures face not only procedural perils that could prevent them from even getting a vote in the Senate but also political hurdles as Democrats seek to pass transformative legislation on their own in the evenly divided chamber.
What are Democrats proposing?
On Monday, Senate Democrats unveiled an initial framework for a proposed federal budget resolution for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October. The framework includes two items pertaining to immigration — “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants” and “investments in smart and effective border security measures.”
No further details were provided, but Democrats have long championed providing legal status to a large proportion of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in America — a first step toward potential U.S. citizenship.
The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee that produced the framework, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, on Monday tweeted, “We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”
Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Who would be affected?
The framework doesn’t spell out the criteria that would make immigrants “qualified” to have their legal status adjusted, but most Democrats have an expansive rather than a restrictive view of legalization for the undocumented.