Pelosi, Biden push immigration reform in $3.5T spending bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants immigration reform measures included in the $3.5 trillion budget measure that Democrats will try to pass with no Republican support. 

During a Friday press conference with Democratic House leadership, Pelosi (D-Calif.) supported the move, saying her colleagues have a “very good case.” 

“I do believe that immigration should be in the reconciliation, some piece of that, in the reconciliation,” she said. “We know we have a very good case for this to be included.”

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.

Pelosi’s comments come one day after President Biden made similar remarks. 

“I think we should include in the reconciliation bill: the immigration proposal,” Biden told reporters outside the White House on Thursday.

Biden had earlier in the day met with 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). Together, the group discussed including in the budget a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people originally promised such under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) (C) speaks to reporters outside of the Oval Office after meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and leadership for the Senate and House Judiciary Committee met with President Biden to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Democrats like Rep. Jerry Nadler (center) are spearheading the bill.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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 were also in the meeting on behalf of the lower house of Congress.

Durbin emphasized the president’s support following the meeting. 

“He knows the challenges we face. He’s with us. He made it clear to us, unequivocally clear that he stands with our efforts,” he said. 

Democrats in the Senate are looking to pass the reconciliation budget before the August recess, starting Aug 9. In order to pass, the Democrats will need all their members to vote in favor, as the Senate is split 50-50. Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote.

“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.

Under the reconciliation process, certain measures regarding revenues, spending and the debt can be approved with a 51-vote threshold, which is why Democrats are pursuing it. The process allows them to bypass a near-certain filibuster from Republicans.

But there’s a catch: The Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian can rule for the removal of any provision not directly related to the budget, or items whose budget impact is “merely incidental” to their intended policy changes.

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.

Immigration advocates gather outside the Supreme Court following a ruling in Washington, DC, USA, 18 June 2020. The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's move to scrap the program, 'Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' (DACA), in a 5-4 ruling written by Chief Justce John Roberts. The decision impacts hundreds of thousands of  immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
It was not originally clear if addressing the DACA program would be possible through Democrats’ reconciliation deal.

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.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks at a press conference of the Senate Democratic Leadership.
Senate Democratic Leadership Press Conference in Washington, US.
Biden made the statement immediately after the meeting, which included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Majority Whip Dick Durbin.

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.

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 voted 67-32 to advance debate on the critical legislation later that evening.

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Federal judge rules Obama exceeded his authority when creating DACA, finds program unlawful; Biden vows to appeal

A Texas-based federal judge ruled Friday that former President Barack Obama exceeded his presidential authority when he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

What is the background?

Obama established the program, otherwise known as DACA, via executive action in 2012 to protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents.

Immigrants awarded DACA protections, known as “Dreamers,” are protected from deportation, and are allowed to attend college and work. The program, however, did not establish a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

DACA has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, but received a major victory last summer when the Supreme Court blocked then-President Donald Trump from ending the program. More than 600,000 immigrants have been awarded DACA status.

What did the judge rule?

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA is unlawful, in part, because the Administrative Procedure Act was violated when Obama created the program without seeking comment from the general public.

“[The Department of Homeland Security] failed to engage in the statutorily mandated process,” Hanen wrote in a 77-page opinion, “so DACA never gained status as a legally binding policy that could impose duties or obligations.”

Hanen explained that Congress — not the executive branch — has the authority to regulate immigration.

“The executive branch cannot just enact its own legislative policy when it disagrees with Congress’s choice to reject proposed legislation,” Hanen wrote. “Congress has not given DHS the power to enact DACA.”

Despite finding DACA unlawful, Hanen wrote that his ruling does not “require DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that it would not otherwise take,” Politico noted.

What did Biden say?

Biden said in a statement that he plans to appeal the ruling, and called on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for dreamers.

“Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing,” Biden said. “The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA.”

“But only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve,” he continued. “I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”

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Joe Rogan says defunding the police has been a ‘disaster’ and mocks its supporters as unrealistic dreamers

Joe Rogan said on his podcast show that the consequences of defunding the police have been a “disaster” and mocked the people who supported the policy as out of touch and unrealistic.

Rogan was speaking with comedian Annie Lederman about the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, when she brought up “Defund the Police,” a popular policy among far-left progressives and some Democrat politicians.

“Cops don’t do anything if someone jumps into someone’s backyard, they don’t arrest them — like, you have to do like $900 worth of theft before they’ll even arrest you,” Rogan explained. “If they do arrest you, they’ll just put you right back out on the street again…”

“And has it always been that way, or is this after the defunding?” Lederman asked.

“After the defunding. The defunding of the police in Austin has been a disaster, too, and New York’s been a disaster. It’s terrible everywhere. It’s a terrible idea,” Rogan responded.

“Also the idea that you are going to send social workers to handle someone’s domestic violence case is f***ing bananas!” he added. “And it’s a lot of people that don’t understand violence that think that’s OK, and they have this utopian idea.”

Mediaite reported that Austin hasn’t technically “defunded” police, but the city council did vote last year to cut the police department’s budget by one-third through measures. New York City cut around $1 billion — or one-sixth — of their police department’s budget.

Rogan went on to posit that defunding the police would lead to increased violence and warlords taking over streets and neighborhoods.

“What’s happening in Mexico could easily happen here with no police presence. People have to understand that,” he added.

Rogan went on to diagnose the homeless problem and criticized the government officials who were receiving six-figure salaries to solve the issue while the crisis continued to worsen.

Lederman praised a program where the homeless were encouraged to pick up litter and clean the area around them.

“What the f*** ever,” Rogan responded. “You can’t camp! How about that? Get the f*** out of here! Or, you gotta figure your life out!”

Here’s the video of Joe Rogan’s comments:

The Homeless Problem in LA vs. Austin

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Kamala Harris tells ‘Dreamers’ that she’ll do everything in her power to protect their status

Vice President Kamala D. Harris on Tuesday marked the ninth anniversary of the Obama-era program that shields some illegal immigrants from deportation, saying the Biden administration will do “everything in our power” to protect them.

“It is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of security,” Ms. Harris said as she called on the Senate to approve legislation that would provide permanent legal status for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The vice president met with Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Bob Menendez of New Jersey and members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

She recalled a hearing when she was a senator, questioning Trump administration Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly about his commitment to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“We knew it was under threat by the administration at the time,” she said. “We are here on this day on the anniversary of DACA … to tell you this administration fully intends to do everything in our power to protect our Dreamers. … There is no question about that.”

She said of the Dreamers, “There is an urgency to this moment, and your stories are America’s stories.”

A federal judge in Texas is weighing a court challenge to strike down the program.

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Biden hosts Dreamers, drops Trump health care rule for immigrants

Amid a growing southern border crisis, President Biden on Friday met privately with six people brought to the US illegally as children and repealed a long-stalled Trump administration policy that would have required immigrants to prove they had health insurance.

The pair of actions come as a push for immigration reform legislation sputters on Capitol Hill.

The White House said in a statement that Biden “met with six DACA recipients who work in health care, education, and agriculture to discuss their experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic.”

The readout of the meeting said the participants “discussed the continued need for immigration reform and the White House’s strong support for the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

The two bills passed the House in March with significant Republican support and would establish a path to citizenship for about half of the estimated 11 million people living in the US without legal permission.

The American Dream and Promise Act passed 228-197 with nine Republicans joining all Democrats voting in favor. The bill would benefit young migrants and refugees with Temporary Protected Status.

Protesters with temporary protected status march along 16th Street toward the White House demanding the Biden administration pass immigration reform in Washington DC on February 23, 2021.
Protesters with temporary protected status march toward the White House demanding the Biden administration pass immigration reform on Feb. 23, 2021.
Getty Images

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed 247-174 with 30 Republicans joining most Democrats in favor and one Democrat voting in opposition. 

But the bills face a more difficult path in the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes generally are required to pass legislation. Many Republicans argue the bills are poorly timed due to the surge of illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border.

Biden recently tweeted in favor of the bills and called for even farther-reaching legislation that would “legalize the undocumented population in the United States.”

There are about 643,000 current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama. DACA recipients are eligible for work permits and protection against deportation.

Biden has broadly attempted to roll back Trump’s immigration policies. His Friday order withdrawing the 2019 Trump administration policy imposing a health insurance requirement on immigrants is the latest example, though that policy was paused due to legal challenges.

“The suspension of entry imposed in Proclamation 9945… does not advance the interests of the United States,” Biden said in a statement.

“My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare. We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”

Unaccompanied minors from Central America rest after surrendering to border patrol agents in La Joya, Texas on May 14, 2021.
Unaccompanied minors from Central America rest after surrendering to border patrol agents in La Joya, Texas, on May 14, 2021.
REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Biden previously ended construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and dropped a 2019 rule banning immigrants deemed likely to require welfare. He boosted a refugee admission cap and ended the Justice Department’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossings.

Biden also ended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required most Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims of persecution. Republicans credit that action with helping inspire a surge of migrants including unaccompanied minors to the US-Mexico border — with border officials reporting at least a 20-year high in apprehensions.

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Arizona measure to give ‘DREAMers’ in-state tuition heads to ballot

Arizona voters will have to decide in 2022 whether an undocumented immigrant who graduated from a local school deserves in-state tuition at a local university.

The Arizona House approved of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 on Monday by a thin margin.

The measure now heads to the Arizona secretary of state to be included on the 2022 general election ballot. Resolutions don’t require action by the governor to reach the ballot.

If voters approve, the measure would grant unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors, called “DREAMers” in reference to the federal law granting them asylum, in-state tuition prices at Arizona’s universities or community colleges.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 bans undocumented individuals from being considered in-state students. The ballot initiative would repeal that language if successful.

It would affect an estimated 2,000 Arizona students annually.

It passed with largely Democratic support in the House but was approved by five Republican lawmakers to ensure it succeeded.

Arizona’s top education official, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, reacted to the news.

“Every Arizona student deserves an equal opportunity to learn, grow and succeed,” Hoffman said. “For far too long, Arizona’s students have not had the same opportunity to attend one of our state universities. Today’s passage of SCR1044 a major step in the right direction.”

She called the initiative good for students and good for the future of Arizona.

“Arizonans deserve the right to weigh in on this important policy, and now they’ll have the chance to do so,” Hoffman said.

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, praised the measure.

“My ‘yes’ vote is for all of the Dreamers because we are all Dreamers at heart,” Fernandez said.

Greater Phoenix Leadership, a business group that spoke out in opposition to the GOP-led audit into Maricopa County’s 2020 election results, pledged support for the initiative next year.

“This legislation, which has been a major priority for the business leaders of GPL for multiple legislative sessions, demonstrates a strong step forward in support, and acknowledgment, of students who will have a significant and positive impact to our state’s economy for generations to come,” it said in a statement.

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Miguel Cardona: College student Dreamers eligible for emergency grants

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is announcing Tuesday that “Dreamers” are eligible for emergency grants for college students in COVID-19 relief bills, reversing the Trump administration policy that enforced the federal ban on giving most taxpayer benefits to immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“The pandemic didn’t discriminate against students,” Mr. Cardona told reporters in a conference-call briefing about the new policy.

Pressed by reporters about the legality of his decision, Mr. Cardona said he considers all students to be eligible, including those who are noncitizens.

Democrats are “swindling law-abiding citizens,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

“Secretary Cardona’s decision to give free money to illegal immigrants and foreign students is an insult to every American,” said Mrs. Foxx, of North Carolina. “The law is clear. Federal funds are for hardworking citizens. President Biden is fueling an immigration crisis, and this final rule exacerbates the emergency at the southern border.”

Mr. Cardona’s decision also drew fire from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington organization that advocates for stronger immigration policies.

“This is bad policy and even worse politics,” said R.J. Hauman, the group’s government relations director.

Similar to previous coronavirus relief packages passed by Congress last year, the $1.9 trillion package signed by President Biden in March included emergency grants that colleges give students to pay for such things as rent, food or transportation. Half of the $36 billion for colleges and universities is supposed to be spent on the aid for students.

President Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, infuriated congressional Democrats when she denied the aid to Dreamers, the nickname for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Mrs. DeVos said that a provision in the federal 1996 welfare reform law prohibits noncitizens from receiving federal aid.

The Trump administration also denied aid to international students.

That Mr. Cardona would take that position was expected. It is the latest example of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats pivoting away from the Trump-era stance to more welcoming policies for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers in particular.

Mr. Biden has called for Dreamers to get a path to citizenship and a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House would do just that.

The president also angered those calling for tighter immigration policies last month when he said Dreamers would qualify under his proposal for tuition-free community colleges.

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