Immigration Advocates Unite Behind Strategy To ‘Disregard’ Parliamentarian

They’re urging Senate Democrats to ignore rulings against immigration provisions.

Immigration advocates have taken three strikes, but they don’t believe they’re out. Instead, they plan to ignore the umpire.

After the Senate parliamentarian shot down Democrats’ third effort to include immigration provisions in their sprawling social and climate spending bill, advocates entered 2022 united behind a bolder, more politically risky strategy: to convince Senate Democrats to disregard their chamber adviser.

The end of 2021 saw a rift emerge within the immigrant advocacy community over the best strategy to push critical protections for undocumented immigrants through Congress for the first time in decades.

Some groups adopted an all-or-nothing approach, arguing for nothing short of citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. After Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough rejected two such proposals, arguing that they didn’t comply with Senate budget rules, other advocates eyed a narrower option that would provide temporary protections but not citizenship.

But in December, when MacDonough shut down that option as well, she ushered in “immediate full alignment” among organizers behind a plan to see her decision set aside, said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“It became very clear literally within hours that we are all aligned on ensuring that the way to make sure that we get reform done this year — in 2022 now — is still through the Build Back Better, through the reconciliation process,” Hincapié said. “And the path toward that is absolutely by disregarding the parliamentarian.”

Patrice Lawrence, co-director of the UndocuBlack Network, agreed that MacDonough’s latest decision had convinced more organizers, who previously fixated on finding an alternative that could pass muster with the parliamentarian, to ignore her opinion.

“More folks are now saying citizenship, more folks are now saying it has to be green cards, it has to be permanent protection,” Lawrence said. “They’re no longer negotiating against themselves.”

By Suzanne Monyak for ROLL CALL
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