(The Center Square) – Congressional Democrats have hit a snag in their plan to push amnesty provisions through Congress as the immigration crisis at the southern border grows worse.
The Senate parliamentarian, who oversees procedural rules for the chamber, announced Democrats can't include amnesty provisions in their $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill.
The nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, said Sunday that Democrats can't use reconciliation, a method of passing legislation with a simple majority that is intended only for budget measures, to enact major changes to immigration law. It now likely will require 60 votes in a deeply divided Senate.
“I’m very glad to hear that the Parliamentarian provided guidance to the Senate that granting legal status to illegal immigrants is not a proper use of the reconciliation process,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement. “Having worked on several comprehensive immigration reform bills, I believe using the reconciliation process to provide legal status to illegal immigrants would be a disaster. It would have led to an increased run on the border – beyond the chaos we already have there today.”
The parliamentarian’s decision, first reported by The Associated Press, struck a blow to some Democrats eager to tackle immigration, but it may have made the bill more palatable by removing one of its most controversial provisions.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision, but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “We will continue fighting to pursue the best path forward to grant them the ability to obtain lawful status.”
The decision comes as the Biden administration continues to take heat for the immigration crisis at the southern border.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection released new data showing agents had 208,887 encounters in August with people trying to illegally enter the country, a near record high. Many of these encounters are repeat offenders, and the numbers have more than doubled from earlier this year. The worsening figures have drawn fire for the Biden administration.
“President Biden’s failed border-security policies are simply unsustainable,” said Chad Wolf, former acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary and a Heritage Foundation expert. “The men and women of federal law enforcement cannot continue to deal with these crisis-level numbers. They are already overwhelmed and overburdened. The breakdown is coming.”
One Texas congressman has been key to drawing attention to the issue, helping publicize a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where nearly 15,000 illegal immigrants, many of them Haitians, have gathered in an encampment.
“Although Title 42 is still being used to expel some migrants, the admin has made it clear that others will still be released in the country while awaiting immigration proceedings,” U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzalez, R-Texas, said. “I’ve been clear that this policy is disastrous and will continue to push the admin to resume Remain in Mexico so migrants no longer have an incentive to be released in the U.S. ICE and CBP will also be flying migrants to other processing sectors to relieve some of the burden from Del Río. Some will be taken to El Paso, other to Laredo, with possibility for other locations.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas headed south to the border Monday to address the Del Rio issue. The Biden administration announced over the weekend it would begin expelling the migrants, but it will take time for the large group to be relocated.
“The Biden Administration has reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey,” DHS said Saturday in a statement. “Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted.”