Attacks on 'amnesty' from Republican lawmakers have not swayed most voters.
As they fight against a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and other essential immigrant workers, GOP lawmakers are repeatedly claiming that the public is on their side. But polls show the public strongly backs the Democrats' proposed reforms.
"Not only do Americans oppose blanket amnesty, they want a secure border," tweeted Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Tuesday. "Democrat [sic] efforts to pass radical immigration policies using budget procedure run contrary to the will of the American people. They are also contrary to the longstanding Senate rules."
She was referring to proposed provisions in President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan that would create a path to citizenship for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their families as kids — along with refugees in the United States legally due to war or other disasters in their home countries, and migrant agriculture workers, and other essential immigrant workers.
Other congressional Republicans have also argued in recent weeks that this effort goes against the will of the American people.
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas denounced the Build Back Better plan in an August speech as "a bunch of leftist nonsense that the American people don't want to see" that would include "amnesty for ten million or more."
"If you think Joe Biden is unpopular now, wait until voters get a good look at Biden's budget," predicted Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. "Massive spending on amnesty, 'environmental justice,' destruction of the coal industry, critical race theory 'investments' — it's the most radical left wing plan in American history."
In a July op-ed in the National Review, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio denounced the effort as a "backdoor amnesty" attempt.
"Every single elected Democrat understands very well that Americans do not want an amnesty bill, which is why they are trying to sneak it into what will be thousands of pages of text, which no one has seen, and ram it through with zero Republican votes," he asserted.
But polls show that the public backs the pathways to citizenship — and is fine with doing so in the $3.5 trillion package.
A July survey by Data for Progress found that 70% of likely voters favor "an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, people who are contributing and working here legally due to war or natural disaster in their home countries, and farmworkers and other essential workers." Just 24% opposed the idea. Even Republicans backed the proposal, 53% to 40%.
Last week, the same polling outfit surveyed likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin about Biden's Build Back Better agenda.
In each of the 12 states, it found at least three-fifths support for "creating a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS [Temporary Protected Status] holders, and essential workers like farmworkers." This ranged from 62% support in Montana to 80% support in Oregon.
Contrary to Lummis' claim, the American people arguably indicated their "will" last November; Biden won on a promise of immigration reform that would include a pathway to citizenship for these immigrants — by a margin of more than 7 million votes.
Democrats also won majorities in the House and Senate on a platform pledging to "pave a path to citizenship for those who have been in the country for an extended period of time and built their lives in the United States."
On Sunday, the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough advised senators that she does not believe the immigration reform proposal, as written, could be included in a budget reconciliation bill.
In her nonbinding opinion, MacDonough wrote that doing so would bring a "tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact," and thus should not be allowed under the Senate's rules relating to which bills can pass by just a simple majority.
Though it could choose to ignore the guidance, the Senate's Democratic majority is now working on other approaches to include the protections in their reconciliation package that MacDonough might be willing to accept.
"She gave her view on only one approach on including a pathway to citizenship in reconciliation," Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told reporters on Monday. "I certainly intend to keep working until we get to a yes, and we're not going to take no for an answer."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.