Even if Democrats manage to eliminate the filibuster and get their immigration reform bill passed with a simple majority, problems will still emerge.
What should the Biden administration prioritize?
So, what is our Plan B?
“Right now, Democrats have the slimmest of majorities,” Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of the immigrant advocacy organization America’s Voice, told me. “Let’s be realistic. The G.O.P. is now the party of Trump, power, plutocracy and racism.”
Mr. Sharry thinks that “Democrats will have to go it alone if they want to produce change that changes lives,” and that if the Biden-Harris bill can’t pass Congress now, a new legislative strategy should be adopted to secure a win for America’s undocumented immigrants, even a partial one.
“We are absolutely committed to a path to citizenship for the 11 million,” Lorella Praeli, the president of the progressive advocacy group Community Change Action, who earlier in her career worked as an activist for undocumented immigrants in Connecticut, wrote to me in an email. “But we’re pivoting from the all-or-nothing approach that hasn’t worked in the past.”
Instead of trying to get the 60 votes needed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Ms. Praeli says, Democrats should seek to use budget reconciliation — a procedure that allows certain spending measures and programs to pass the Senate by a simple majority — to legalize “as many people as possible,” including essential workers, Dreamers, farmworkers and those immigrants who have been granted temporary protected status by the government.
This strategy is somewhat similar to the one that in 2012 resulted in the DACA program, which today protects approximately 700,000 undocumented people, known as Dreamers, from deportation, allowing them to work in the United States legally.
When the Dreamers, young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, realized that Congress wouldn’t support the legalization of their status, they put major pressure on President Barack Obama to protect them with an executive action that is still in effect today. DACA completely changed their lives.