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Democrats set to relinquish control of House without delivering immigration reform

By Sarah May
|
December 31, 2022

With the Nancy Pelosi era of House leadership coming to an end, she and her colleagues in the Democratic Party are having to come to terms with the fact that one of their top priorities – immigration reform – remains unfulfilled as Republicans prepare to reclaim control of the lower chamber, as The Hill reports.

The outgoing speaker's failure to achieve the type of results championed by her caucus for years have also produced deep disappointment from members of activist groups who placed their trust in her.

False starts

As The Hill noted, the past two years were marked by the occasional spark of potential that Democrats would make progress on declared immigration reform priorities, but in the end, they were unable to find an opening in which sufficient numbers of Republican senators would get on board with the two bills that were approved by the House.

Neither the Dream and Promise Act – which would have provided a citizenship pathway to millions – nor the Farm Workforce Modernization Act – which would have done the same – ultimately cleared the Senate.

Furthermore, Democrats' attempts to integrate immigration reform provisions into President Joe Biden's Build Back Better package were thwarted by the Senate parliamentarian, who declared that they could not be included in a bill poised to be passed via the budget reconciliation process.

Dashed hopes

In the wake of the midterm elections, which did not produce the Republican wave some anticipated, Democrats' hopes that something could be achieved on immigration were bolstered once more, with some lawmakers attempting to put together a deal for the so-called “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors – and also with regard to agricultural laborers.

Those proposals were joined by another, introduced by California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, which would permit illegal immigrants who have been in the country for seven years without acquiring a criminal record to apply for permanent resident status.

However, without obvious support in the Senate and a failure among Democrats to choose one bill on which to focus in the time crunch of a lame-duck session, nothing was ultimately accomplished on any of them.

Making things even tougher for the Democrats was the fact that concerns over what appeared to be the imminent lifting of Title 42 expulsion rules pushed immigration back into the headlines in a manner not seen as conducive to liberal preferences, as The Hill noted, and with the left's push to pass a massive omnibus spending bill prior before the GOP reclaimed the House, contentious items such as immigration reform was pushed to the back burner once again.

"Stymied" by "missteps"

As Politico noted back in October, the entire situation has left immigration activists dissatisfied and disappointed and of the belief that the Biden administration has failed to prioritize the issue and has broken its promises to work toward a “fair and humane” system in this realm.

Added salt in the wound, according to some pro-immigrant groups, is the fact that Biden has made good on pledges he made to a host of other interest groups during the course of his 2020 campaign and beyond.

Beneficiaries of the administration's attentions and those of its Democratic Party allies, according to immigration activists, have been those seeking student debt forgiveness, gun control advocates, and environmentalist groups, all of which secured big wins during the past two years.

Jorge Loweree of the American Immigration Council lamented the apparent lack of motivation when it comes to passing real immigration reform, saying, “It wasn't prioritized by any means. And their achievements in terms of administrative changes have also been limited because they've been stymied by red states and the courts, and the very complicated politics, particularly in relation to that to the southern border.”

“And they've also been stymied by, quite frankly, internal disagreements and missteps of their own,” Loweree added.

GOP plans unveiled

Though Pelosi and the Democrats may have squandered their chance to effect their desired brand of reform while they still held control of the House, Republicans appear determined to avoid a similar fate, as Roll Call reported earlier this month.

Looking ahead to the upcoming shift in power in the lower chamber, members of the Texas congressional delegation recently unveiled a 13-page framework for reform to ease the record levels of migration overwhelming the country's southern border.

The Republicans' proposals would include a series of initiatives including the building of physical barriers at the border, implementation of programs such as the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, strengthening of enforcement of existing laws, and designate cartels as terrorist-type organizations.

While members of the Republican House contingent surely understand that their plans are unlikely to advance in the Democrat-led Senate, they indicated that their intent was to “force the issue” and spark fruitful negotiations, but only time will tell whether any movement on immigration reform will ultimately prove achievable any time soon.