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Senate Democrats hope to tie key immigration provisions to next reconciliation push

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

  • Democrats want to use it to force hundreds of thousands of green cards for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders and essential workers.

Driving the news: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Tuesday that the House will soon vote on a bill offering pathways to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders, as well as a second bill providing green cards for unauthorized immigrant farmworkers.

  • These two bills should sail through the House but would face an uphill battle in the 50-50 Senate.

What we're hearing: If the measures fail to get the 10 Republican votes needed to meet the 60-vote Senate threshold, some Democrats hope to tack them on to whatever infrastructure and economic recovery package evolves this spring.

  • Top Senate Democrats have already signaled they plan to use the reconciliation process to pass Biden's mammoth infrastructure bill, which would allow it to pass via simple majority vote.
  • Democratic lawmakers want to piggyback on the process by adding their immigration provisions.
  • Democrats are also planning to use reconciliation to usher in a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrant essential workers, such as was recently introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
  • “Essential workers risked their lives and delivered for all Americans during this pandemic,” Castro told Axios in a statement. “It’s up to Congress to deliver a path to citizenship as part of our nation’s economic recovery.”

Between the lines: Democrats and immigration advocates hope they can get 10 Republicans to possibly pass a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders and farmworkers as those bills have received some bipartisan support in the past.

  • At the very least, it’s politically savvy to force Republicans to openly deny a pathway to citizenship for the millions of so-called Dreamers, young people living in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children — as it’s a proposal that enjoys wide popularity.

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