President Joe Biden promised Hispanic lawmakers on Tuesday that he would make a more proactive case for the economic benefits of immigration.
In the process, he left the impression that it would not just be a portion of his upcoming address to a joint session of Congress, but that he’d support moving immigration measures through budget rules allowing a simple majority vote in the Senate.
“We can expect the president to be talking about the economic benefits of the immigration bill” in the future, said Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), one of multiple Congressional Hispanic Caucus members who met with the president at the White House.
A push from Biden touting the economic benefits of immigration reform could supplement efforts by progressive groups to sell a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people as a $1.4 trillion boon for the U.S. economy. It also may boost efforts by some on Capitol Hill to argue that a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants can be passed in a reconciliation package that, if sanctioned by the Senate parliamentarian, could move through the chamber with just 50 votes.
During Tuesday’s meeting, members of the CHC asked for Biden’s “unequivocal support for immigration reforms to be included in the reconciliation package,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.). “He said he was committed to making those statements publicly.”
Biden said that he generally “supports passing certain immigration reforms by reconciliation if we can’t get the 10 Republican votes,” Soto said after the meeting, referring to the number of GOP votes needed in the Senate to meet the 60-vote threshold required for most legislation. “And he would make a statement in the State of the Union.”
A White House spokesperson did not address questions about Biden’s comments to lawmakers during the meeting, instead saying the administration is committed to immigration reform and “supports the House-passed Dream and Promise Act and calls on the Senate to pass this important legislation as soon as possible.”
Narrow bills providing a citizenship pathway for Dreamers and legal status for farmworkers are currently stalled in the Senate after passing the House earlier this year. And Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill hasn’t received a vote in the House, where it faces resistance from some within his own party.
Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) said Biden urged lawmakers in the meeting to “continue to speak about the economic benefits to all American families through immigration reform.”
“He supports the cause,” Ruiz said. If Biden’s current infrastructure plan ultimately goes through the reconciliation process and the Republican votes aren’t there for immigration, Ruiz said the Hispanic Caucus and Biden administration would “support the budget component of immigration reforms and job creation … and also a pathway to citizenship through the budget reconciliation.”
According to Ruiz, Biden expressed a “strong sentiment” about getting immigration reform “done once and for all,” through whatever means available.
Biden did not commit to an “exclusive list” of specific undocumented immigrants that could be included in a potential measure considered under reconciliation, said Soto. But members specifically asked for a pathway for Dreamers, farmworkers, essential workers and Temporary Protected Status recipients to be on the list.
Both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Progressive Caucus have pushed for Democratic leaders to include immigration reforms in a future reconciliation package as narrow immigration measures face headwinds in the 50-50 Senate. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) along with Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers that they recently pressed the White House to include in negotiations around the next reconciliation package.
“We think we can make a case about the budget impacts of immigration in our country, and we are going to try to do that,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Asian American advocates earlier this month.