Hobbs: Major parties provide obstacles to immigration reform
San Jose students and community members hosted a walkout Tuesday at Hillside Park to support DACA and TPS recipients on the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the issue. File photo.

The Republican Party. The right-wing anti-elite populism of the base of the Republican Party, its disdain for civility and compromise during the past 12 years, the accommodation and then subservience of the Republican Party to Donald Trump, and Trump’s inflaming the fear and racism of his base with lies all led to the Jan. 6 conflagration in the Capitol.   

The unwavering acceptance of Trump’s lies regarding the outcome of the presidential election by Republicans in the House and the Senate and the objections to accepting the verified results in all 50 states is leading to the long-term demise of the party.

When the truth fractures, so do political parties.

In this unprecedented political juncture, as Republican politicians are confronted by the truth, as conspiracy theories unravel and as domestic terrorists become increasingly isolated, expect a slow but sustained demise of the Republican Party.

The indication that Republican senators will hide behind procedural arguments instead of rightfully convicting Trump demonstrates the timidity of party stalwarts, fear of Trump’s base in 2022 elections and verification of the demise.

This recent Republican retrenchment that further enables Trump’s base bodes poorly for immigration reform. Trump’s signature anti-immigrant issue remains alive and well after his impeachment and departure.

The Democratic Party. Enter Joe Biden. President Biden deserves accolades for shifting the culture from corruption to compassion on day one of his presidency.

His executive orders on immigration have already consolidated DACA, ended the Muslim ban, created enforcement priorities instead of mass deportation, abrogated the Remain in Mexico policy and terminated the Zero Tolerance policy that separated children from parents and treated all persons fleeing poverty and persecution in their homelands as criminals.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 proposes immediate green cards for DACA and TPS recipients as well as farmworkers. It would allow other undocumented immigrants (now, under Biden, compassionately labeled “noncitizens” instead of “aliens”) temporary residence for 5 years, a green card for 3 years after that, and the opportunity for citizenship at that time.

Importantly, it would also end unlawful presence bars that prevent even immediate relatives from getting a green card, get rid of the one-year limit to request political asylum, increase numbers for refugee and diversity visa admissions and increase the number of visas for immigrant victims of crimes in the United States from 10,000 to 30,000 annually.

It would also allow the reunification of families that sometimes wait decades abroad in the preference system, promote immigrant integration, provide work authorization to H-4 visa holders, improve adjudication time frames and address the root causes of immigration.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 will be dead on arrival. It will be blocked by the filibuster, which requires 51 votes (including the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris) to be negated.

As a reflection of the “power sharing” announced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have announced that they will not support the ending of the filibuster.

That leaves only 48 votes to end the filibuster, a non-starter.

If the filibuster were ended not only would meaningful immigration reform become possible, but so would urgent reforms regarding the climate, civil rights, labor law, health care, education and privacy.

It is imperative that caring advocates raise an immediate massive campaign targeting Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, not only to rid ourselves of the filibuster, but also to create immense legislative support on behalf of people and planet so that the Republican Party will not have a leg to stand on.

Building support for immigration reform

To build support for immigration and other reforms in the short run, the best bet will be the budget reconciliation process under the Budget Act of 1974.

Not only did the Republican Party abdicate its responsibility to have a party platform in 2020, handing over policy to the whims of Donald Trump, but it also failed to even consider a budget resolution on the floor of Congress in both 2019 and 2020, the first time since the modern budget process was established.

A rudderless Republican Party. A rudderless budget. A rudderless nation.

By law a concurrent budget resolution must be approved each year by April 15. Reconciliation bills are unique in that they have a 20-hour limit on debate in the Senate and most importantly, cannot be filibustered in the Senate. This means that a 51-vote majority can pass the concurrent budget resolution.

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee can set the direction for this country by incorporating budget provisions for comprehensive immigration reform.

Undocumented immigrants by law cannot be reunited with immediate family members; cannot work legally; cannot receive federal financial loans to complete their college education; cannot vote; and therefore, lacking many basic human rights, must endure a painful inhumane existence. The last amnesty law only allowed legalization for immigrants who were in the country in 1981 or before. Forty long years have gone by without a line to stand in for a green card and human dignity.

No other segment of the U.S. population includes more essential workers to combat COVID-19 than immigrants. Undocumented immigrants deserve more than a break—they need our support.

Incorporate the provisions of the Citizenship Act of 2021 into the concurrent budget resolution and convince Sens. Manchin and Sinema that ending the filibuster is humane—not only for immigrants but for all of us.

Richard Hobbs is an immigration attorney, former director of citizenship and immigrant programs of Santa Clara County and currently executive director of Human Agenda. 

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