Briefline

Senate parliamentarian rules against immigration reform a second time

By: - October 1, 2021 12:57 pm
March for Citizenship

Protesters made their way down Speer Boulevard to Auraria Parkway on Sept. 25, 2021, demanding that Congress create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. (Courtesy of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition)

Last weekend, protesters gathered at Viking Park in Denver and marched down Speer Boulevard to Auraria Parkway, calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. They demanded a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and an end to detentions, deportations and abuses perpetrated by Border Patrol agents.

But in the days following the March on Citizenship organized by Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, or CIRC, one of the protesters’ key priorities was dealt a setback. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Wednesday for the second time that Democrats could not include a pathway to legal immigration status for millions of undocumented people in their budget reconciliation bill.

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Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is a nonpartisan official who determines how U.S. Senate rules and precedent should be applied to lawmaking. MacDonough said the immigration reform was a “weighty policy change” that shouldn’t be included in the budget legislation, according to CNN.

protester
A protester holds a sign that reads “Justice for immigrants and refugees” at a rally in Denver on Sept. 25, 2021. (Courtesy of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition)

Among those calling for reform at Saturday’s March for Citizenship protest in Denver was Eriko Tsogo, who was granted temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program allows people who were brought to the U.S. without documentation as children to live and work legally in the U.S., but the protected status is temporary. Democrats’ proposal would have provided a way for DACA recipients, among other groups of immigrants, to receive permanent legal status.

“It’s unfortunate that many immigrants and the children of immigrants still continue to face discrimination, mistreatment and rejection from the very community and society that we sacrifice to make America better, the place we call home,” said Tsogo, who was quoted in a statement from CIRC. “After decades of waiting for immigration reform we cannot let this moment pass.”

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, along with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, had supported including the immigration reform in the $3.5 trillion budget package that’s now hit a stalemate in the Senate.

Denver protesters who joined the march on Saturday had also called for an end to the Title 42 policy in place at the U.S. border, a pandemic-era rule implemented under former President Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden. Title 42 allows the U.S. to immediately deport people who enter the country without proper documentation, without giving them a chance to apply for asylum based on persecution in their country of origin.

Recently, images of Border Patrol agents chasing Haitian migrants on horseback using long reins drew national attention to the policy. Though Haiti is in the throes of political upheaval and a humanitarian crisis, the U.S. government has used Title 42 to expel thousands of Haitians in recent days in a nearly unprecedented deportation campaign, transporting them via plane from a refugee camp on the southern U.S. border.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky defended the Title 42 policy on Friday.

“Title 42 is a public health order,” she told the Wall Street Journal, saying the agency continues to reevaluate every 60 days.

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday announced new directives for detention and deportation, which give more discretion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on prioritizing whom to deport from within the U.S. A person should not be deported simply because they are undocumented, Mayorkas said. The new directives did not affect Title 42.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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