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AP sources: Senate Dems’ immigration bid suffers key setback

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian has said a Democratic effort to let millions of immigrants remain temporarily in the U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate parliamentarian has said a Democratic effort to let millions of immigrants remain temporarily in the U.S. should be dropped from an expansive social and environment bill, people informed of the decision said Thursday, dealing another blow to a long-time priority of the party and migrant advocates.

The ruling by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate's nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, all but certainly means Democrats will have to drop the proposal from their 10-year, $2 trillion package of health care, family services and climate change initiatives championed by President Joe Biden.

The people informed of MacDonough's decision were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Her opinion was no surprise — it was the third time since September that she said Democrats would violate Senate rules by using the legislation to help immigrants and it should fall from the bill. Nonetheless, her decision was a painful setback for progressive and Latino groups hoping to capitalize on party control of the White House and Congress for gains on the issue, which have been elusive in Congress for decades.

The latest proposal would let an estimated 6.5 million immigrants in the U.S. since at least 2010 without legal authorization apply for up to two five-year work permits. The permits would let them hold jobs, avoid deportation and in some instances travel abroad without risking their residency here. Applicants would have to meet background checks and other requirements.

Immigration advocates and their Democratic Senate allies have said they will continue seeking a way to include provisions helping migrants in the legislation. But their pathway is unclear, and the bill itself is stalled in the chamber due to Democratic divisions. Work on the legislation seems all but certain to be delayed until at least January.

The rejected plan would create no new pathway for those getting work permits to remain in the U.S. permanently. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that 6.5 million migrants would ultimately get the temporary permits and, of those, around 3 million would later gain permanent residency because their new status would remove some obstacles in that process.

Many progressives have urged Democrats to vote to overrule the parliamentarian, whose opinion is advisory. But it seems unlikely that the party would have the unanimous support it would need to do that.

The latest proposal fell well short of Biden’s initial plan this year to give the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. without legal authorization a way to seek permanent residency and even citizenship.

Even so, it would have been Congress’ most sweeping move in decades to help migrants in this country. A 1986 immigration overhaul helped an estimated 2.5 million immigrants win permanent residency.

Democrats are using special rules to try pushing their $2 trillion bill through the Senate by a simple majority, not the usual 60 votes. The party controls the 50-50 chamber because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, and every Republican opposes the legislation.

But under that process, a measure’s provisions must be chiefly driven by tax and spending considerations, not policy changes. The parliamentarian decides whether that hurdle has been cleared.

Alan Fram, The Associated Press