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Comprehensive Immigration Reform Has ‘Zero’ Chance This Year, Key Senate Democrat Reportedly Says



President Joe Biden’s proposed overhaul of immigration rules has “zero” chance of succeeding this year, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)—a key sponsor of Biden’s bill—told Politico, as legislators struggle to find an immigration agenda capable of passing an evenly divided Senate.

Key Facts

Menendez’s comment came after a bipartisan group of senators—including Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Republicans Thom Tillis (N.C.) and John Cornyn (Texas)—met Thursday to discuss what immigration reform measures would be capable of garnering the 60 Senate votes necessary to avoid a filibuster.

Tillis said a possible deal including guest worker programs and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could help allay worker shortages in the U.S. and bolster the economy, adding that Thursday’s meeting would be the first of several.

The Biden Administration has come under fire from Republican legislators for a spike in arrests at the southern border that began last spring, further dimming hopes of bipartisan cooperation on immigration reform.

Passing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021—a sweeping immigration bill initially proposed by Biden in January 2021—in an evenly divided Senate would be a “Herculean” task, Menendez remarked last year.

Key Background

Biden announced the U.S. Citizenship Act on the first day of his presidency. The act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, assign $4 billion in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reduce conditions motivating migration to the U.S., increase resources for U.S. immigration courts and roll back numerous immigration-related executive actions by former President Donald Trump. Since then, his immigration agenda has mostly stalled. Several modest reform bills passed the House with some GOP support last year but got stuck in the evenly divided Senate, including bills that would create a process for agricultural workers to become permanent U.S. residents and let up to 4.44 million undocumented immigrants remain in the U.S. temporarily or permanently. Biden has expressed some willingness to support piecemeal immigration reform, but said that providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be a necessary part of any more comprehensive immigration bill.


The Biden Administration plans to end Title 42—a Trump-era rule that allows U.S. border officials to summarily turn back migrants—on May 23, but a federal judge last week temporarily blocked the decision to repeal the rule, leaving the timeframe uncertain. Democrats are divided on when to repeal Title 42: Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) have urged the Biden Administration to delay repealing Title 42 until a comprehensive new plan to control an ensuing surge in migrants is worked out, while Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) Thursday called the policy “fundamentally racist, unjust and cruel” and said it should be scrapped quickly. Republican legislators, joined by some Democrats, have worried that border officials lack an adequate plan to deal with the spike in border-crossings expected once Title 42 ends. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said adequate plans are in place, but details are being kept under wraps from “enemies” like drug cartels.

Further Reading

“Strike 3 For Democrats In The Senate Hopes Dim For Immigration Reform” (Forbes)



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