With the talks of a new infrastructure bill in the U.S. and District Judge Andrew Hanen ruling DACA illegal, undocumented immigrants are now feeling tenser than ever as to what the U.S. government has in mind when it comes to the immigration system. If you’re unfamiliar with DACA, let me give you a quick rundown. DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals refers to the 800,000 (doesn’t include all childhood unlawful arrivals) individuals who arrived in the US unlawfully as children. This program was established under President Barack Obama’s presidency in 2012 which gave some protection to these individuals and enabled them to get a driver's license, a work permit, and social security number. Although they have access to the former, this program did not ensure a pathway to citizenship and requires a stressful renewal every two years.
Threats to DACA are common, with one attack under President Donald Trump and most recently the ruling of District Judge Andrew Hanen. This new decision is being handled by President Joe Biden who is currently working with Democrats on incorporating DACA protection in the new 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan and in trying to pass the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS recipients. Within the budget reconciliation bill, Democrats are advocating for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Although Republicans don’t support the pathway to citizenship, one Senator, Thomas Roland Tillis, suggested that the infrastructure bill should only include a pathway to citizenship for DACA. This would account for less than 700,000 people and would not even consist of all of DACA because of an estimated 1.3 million people unable to receive DACA status during the Trump Administration.
Now having had some context with immigration reform within the 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan, I think it’s time to discuss the actual bill itself. Essentially the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan was created for infrastructure as well as aid for the pandemic. Initially Democrats like Bernie Sanders wanted a $6 trillion plan, but understanding that this effort was too ambitious he agreed along with other more progressive Democrats to settle for $3.5 trillion. Needless to say the amount needed is a hefty one, a solution that President Joe Biden says can be funded by taxing wealthy and large corporations their fair share. This plan would lead to developing worn down transportation systems, helping Americans living in rural areas have access to the internet, and expanding Medicare among other things. Although negotiations will be tough President Joe Biden is certain the bill will pass through.
Moving back to how the infrastructure bill will affect immigration, this might be the easier path to take considering that this would only require 51 signatures than the filibuster’s 60, which when discussing how difficult it would be to even gain signatures from Democrats, this is a win. Republicans don’t see how legalizing undocumented immigrants plays into the bill but Democrat Dick Durbin brought back when Republicans themselves used immigration reform for authorizing more green cards through budget reconciliation. A common argument made to support the legalization of undocumented immigrants is because of their billions of dollars worth in taxpayer money every year. This stated, we can also not forget how undocumented immigrants are given the short end of the stick when it comes to their employers who have underpaid their undocumented workers for the mere reason of their legal status. The legalization status that Democrats have been promising for years. The legalization that can happen now, after all the pressure the immigrant community has been putting on the Democratic Party to take action.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has informed Democrats that if they are forced to include immigration in the bill, that they will not be open to negotiating. I also think it important to include how Democrats pushing for immigration reform could affect their re-election because of how Republicans could portray them to the media, but there is a pro, because if this is successful, this could pave the way for more support for the Democratic Party and relieve the livelihood of millions of people. Like previously mentioned, some Democrats are not even on board with the reconciliation bill, take Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia who stated he would not support the budget reconciliation until there was a sure way of a pathway to citizenship. The efforts to push this agenda are strong, hopefully, it will end up working out because this issue has been going on for far too long, it’s been thirty years since there has been actual immigration reform, times have changed, and it will only get more complicated if no action is taken place. This reform would have probably not even been up for discussion, if Congress had wanted to actually pass a bill in the first place like in 2013.
But like with most things, only time will tell how immigration reform plays out, since it affects everybody. American politicians understand the urgency of not sweeping this issue under the rug, especially with the U.S. aging population along with less American women wanting to have children is going to require a larger workforce, one that immigrants will and continue to seek. At the rate the U.S. is now when it comes to international relations and globalization, it is going to be difficult to undermine the impact of hard-working immigrants and the unfair immigration system.