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Op-Ed: Congressional Democrats’ thirst for amnesty will not die

October 14, 2021

By John Zadrozny

In the last three weeks, Senate Democrats have tried to squeeze two separate amnesty provisions into their monster $3.5 trillion spending spree. This overall legislative effort is essentially a grab-bag of far-left policy fantasies, but the amnesty attempts were the proverbial bridge too far for even the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled that neither provision was sufficiently budget related to qualify as part of the budget reconciliation process. 

Opponents of amnesty breathed a sigh of relief. But such a reaction is premature, primarily because it is naïve to assume that Democratic leadership would let the current legislative push pass them by without some sort of sop to the illegal immigrant community in the United States.

The parliamentarian is not a constitutional officer but serves in an advisory role to elected senators. Senate leadership, therefore, has the ability to reject the parliamentarian’s rulings and to allow these or similar provisions into the final reconciliation package.

The fact that the Senate leaders of both parties have rarely bypassed the parliamentarian or have been hesitant to do so does not mean they can’t or won’t. Senate leadership probably would have already overruled the parliamentarian if they weren’t having more significant issues keeping their caucus together on the larger package. After all, there is no point in overriding the parliamentarian when you may not even hit the 50-vote threshold on the current package.

Even if congressional leadership opts not to go for broke on some form of straight-up amnesty in reconciliation, they could in theory simply take other steps to solidify the stand-down of federal immigration enforcement that has already been a staple of the Biden administration at the operational level since Jan. 20, 2021.

For example, there is a risk that Senate Democrats could take further steps to restrict the ability of the Department of Homeland Security from being able to remove illegal aliens from the country or possibly even block them from investigating criminal conduct by illegal aliens. They could also seize on the deceptive messaging around the Border Patrol’s recent interaction with Haitian nationals to further handicap law enforcement’s ability to police the border. Anything that paralyzes federal law enforcement, prevents the removal of illegal aliens, or otherwise provides comfort and security to those illegally present populations (instead of destabilizing them and encouraging them to return to their countries of origin) is effectively a shadow amnesty.

It is also possible based on recent actions that congressional leadership could go on a goodie giveaway for the foreign national populations they have targeted for amnesty. There are already a few particularly egregious examples of such giveaways that have emerged from the reconciliation spending spree, including billions in benefits for more than 100,000 unvetted Afghan nationals and tens of billions more in the form of the Additional Child Tax Credit for illegal aliens. These giveaways, which would be paid for by American citizens, would help support the population of amnesty recipients and serve as a significant pull factor for potentially millions of additional foreign nationals who are watching the giveaway and will be part of future waves of asylum-seekers and border crossers.

As the big-government socialism bill moves on, it is important to remember one thing. The Democrats’ fragile majority in the House and tie in the Senate may not stop them from sacrificing their majorities in either or both chambers to achieve a once-in-a-generation policy victory such as amnesty, the Green New Deal, or any of the other troubling provisions of this bill. In early 2010, the Obama administration charged forward with Obamacare, knowing full well it meant the likely loss of the House of Representatives. The Republicans ultimately gained more than 60 House seats and control of the chamber that fall, but President Barack Obama was able to claim his socialized medicine victory, and Obamacare is still law today. As in 2010, control of Congress may be a price Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are willing to pay for a priority like amnesty.

John A. Zadrozny is the Director of the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at America First Policy Institute. He was former acting chief of staff at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Trump administration.