Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that he is “actively exploring” ways to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants via budget reconciliation, two people familiar with the discussions told the New York Times.
Passing such legislation via budget reconciliation rules would require a simple majority vote in the Senate, rather than the filibuster-proof threshold of 60 votes required for most legislation. Schumer is reportedly considering passing the citizenship bill along with President Biden’s infrastructure bill via reconciliation, should negotiations over a standalone immigration bill break down.
However, it is unclear whether the move would receive approval of the Senate parliamentarian, who interprets and arbitrates Senate rules and procedures. Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) was skeptical that the parliamentarian would allow legislation to legalize undocumented immigrants to pass via budget reconciliation.
“I think they’re dreaming; I don’t think the parliamentarian will allow that. That’s not really the purpose of reconciliation,” Cornyn told the Times.
Cornyn also emphasized that “before we can do anything meaningful on immigration, we’re going to have to deal with the current crisis at the border.”
Sources familiar with Schumer’s thinking believe he will argue that there is precedent for using the procedure to change immigration policy. Republicans, including Cornyn, supported the use budget reconciliation to reclaim unused visas in 2005, although that was a more limited action that what Schumer would be proposing in this case.
Members of the Hispanic Caucus have previously stated that the president is open to passing immigration reform via budget reconciliation if Democrats don’t receive GOP support.
Biden generally “supports passing certain immigration reforms by reconciliation if we can’t get the 10 Republican votes,” Representative Darren Soto (D., Fla.) told Politico in mid-April.
Biden released his immigration bill in January, calling to legalize roughly 11 million migrants currently residing in the U.S.