The midterms will probably determine the fate of immigration reform
Immigrants are essential to America’s economic prosperity but Republican-led congressional gridlock and a decline in US support have made efforts to expand immigrations a challenge.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The writing was on the wall two weeks ago ahead of the Senate vote to pass the Inflation Reduction Act — the breakthrough climate, health care and tax bill that President Joe Biden signed into law on Tuesday.
Republicans didn’t have the votes to block the bill from advancing to the House where it passed a week later. Their only recourse was to force vulnerable Democrats in competitive reelection campaigns to take controversial votes during a vote-a-rama when senators can introduce an unlimited number of relevant amendments to a bill.
This could have imperiled the bill if not for Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla of California and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who drew a bright red line before the vote-a-rama ever started: If any Senate Democrat votes with Republicans on an anti-immigrant amendment, they would withdraw their support for the larger bill. Without their votes in a 50-50 Senate, the legislation would have been dead on arrival.
Obviously, this crisis was ultimately averted. And Jaya Chatterjee, legislative and advocacy director at Community Change, a national organization that builds the power of low-income people, told Supercreator that this unity didn’t happen overnight.
In fact, the Democrats’ most recent expression of solidarity was in part due to immigrant communities and advocates organizing after Senate Republicans in February 2021 tried to block immigrants from receiving the stimulus checks that were part of the American Rescue Plan that passed along party lines a month later. Some Democrats voted with their GOP colleagues and, in the eyes of immigrants and allies, against the Democratic Party’s values.
“There's been a lot of work that immigration advocates and immigrant communities have done with their [congressional] delegations to educate them and talk to them about immigrants and their contributions,” Chatterjee said. “So I think the organizing work combined with the leadership of champions like Sens. Padilla and Menendez and [Senate Democratic Leader Chuck] Schumer‘s tremendous effort at keeping the caucus together prevented the harms that would have been caused by the six anti-immigrant poison pill amendments that were introduced and were all defeated.
It’s worth remembering that immigrants make up a huge portion of what we called “essential workers” during the height of the pandemic.
“These people were essential before the pandemic, during the pandemic and they got us through and they continue to be essential,” Chatterjee said. “They’re working in all of those sort of backbone jobs that we all need to get our groceries, to clean our hospitals and our schools, to drive our buses. These people are doing the work that allows our country and our economy to move forward.”
And although the poison pills didn’t survive the IRA vote-a-rama, previous efforts to pass provisions to make meaningful progress on immigration reform and create the roadmap to citizenship have stalled in Congress and left millions of immigrants in limbo.
Even more disappointing, recent polling shows that support among Americans for expanding immigration has dropped in the past two years after reaching an all-time high.
“I think that there’s been a relentless anti-immigrant, anti-lots-of-other-communities for the past couple of years — and our country is reeling from that,” Chatterjee said. “You see anti-Asian hate crimes going up and these things have an impact.”
Ahead of the midterms, it’s no surprise that the same priorities for the broader electorate are top of mind for immigrants too.
“Immigrants care about the things everybody in this country cares about like getting good education for their kids, having an economy where we can succeed and get better jobs that improve our lives and that of our families,” Chatterjee said. “And so that’s how we are talking to people, including immigrants, ahead of this election. We’re talking to them about pocketbook issues, we’re talking about education, we’re talking to them about the same thing we’re talking to other voters about.”
Any real hope for near-term progress on immigration reform though will likely depend on if Senate Democrats are able to expand their majority this fall, which will require them to hold several competitive seats and pick up a couple in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or North Carolina.
And after years of setbacks, it's easy to succumb to the hopelessness that progress will remain elusive.
But political power is concentrated among coalitions that are organized. And Chatterjee is confident that immigrants and advocates will come together and continue to make the case for a system valued on humanity, justice and fairness.
"This is not a partisan issue. It shouldn't be a partisan issue, at least,” she said. “And so I absolutely think that there is a path forward for immigration reform. And advocates and immigrant communities are not going to stop until we achieve that.”
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Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio sent Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo a letter urging her to accelerate the implementation of an innovation bill President Biden signed into law last week. “You recently referred to our dependence on foreign chip manufacturing as ‘downright scary and untenable,’” Brown wrote. “We share that concern, which is why we urge you to swiftly implement the CHIPS Act of 2022 by establishing a program and to grant awards proportional to projects’ relative contributions to US technology leadership and supply chain resilience.”
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire sent the Agriculture Department a letter encouraging the agency to take additional action to improve domestic supplies of sugar. The lawmaker, who’s up for reelection this fall, said doing so would lower prices on food and beverages, which are key drivers of inflation. (@SenatorShaheen / Twitter)
Dr. Rachelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency failed to respond quickly enough to the coronavirus pandemic and previewed a series of changes to better prioritize public health needs and efforts to curb continuing outbreaks. The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Supercreator.
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The Justice Department indicted a man from Missouri for allegedly making a threat to an Arizona election official. The suspect is charged with leaving a voicemail on the official’s personal cell phone that said in part: “You need to check yourself. You need to do your [expletive] job right because other people from other states are watching your ass. You [expletive] renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting.”
Planned Parenthood announced a $50 million investment in the 2022 midterms to elect abortion rights champions across the country who are committed to protecting abortion access once in office. The investment, which represents the organization’s largest-ever electoral campaign, will focus on states positioned to either ban or expand access to sexual and reproductive health care and coincides with the launch of takecontrol2022.org, an electoral website featuring endorsed candidates, key races, and how to get involved.
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