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84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation

A group of mayors from cities in 28 states called on President Biden, Vice President Harris and Democratic leaders in Congress to include immigration provisions in a budget package to be passed through reconciliation.

The 84 mayors represent cities throughout the country, including the nation's four largest in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

Mayors from smaller cities such as Boise, Idaho, and Grand Rapids, Mich., also signed the letter.

"We, the undersigned mayors, respectfully request that you prioritize the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, essential workers, and their families in any economic recovery legislation including through budget reconciliation," wrote the mayors in a letter first reviewed by The Hill.

The mayors' request comes as Democrats grapple with the possibility of including a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the budget deal.

The biggest question is whether the Senate parliamentarian will rule that legalizations have enough of a budget impact to qualify for reconciliation, a budget procedure that would sidestep a potential Republican filibuster.

While it is a certainty that Democrats will use reconciliation as a maneuver to pass an expansive budget with provisions that haven't made it into bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, it's less certain which immigration provisions will fit into the bill.

Almost all immigration proposals include Dreamers - undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors - and TPS beneficiaries, but there is discussion among immigration advocates whether the best path to expand the number of legalizations includes essential workers, farm workers, or their family members.

The mayors chose to include essential workers and their families in their request, a wording that would likely deliver the greatest number of legalizations.

"As mayors we see every day the devastation that immigration uncertainty has on the entire family unit. The hesitancy of taking children to their doctors appointments or during this last year of getting tested or vaccinated for COVID," said Oakland, Calif. Mayor Libby Schaaf. 

"We know that providing this citizenship pathway is estimated to boost the GDP of our country by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. And we will not enjoy this economic prosperity unless we are providing that sense of security for the entire family," added Schaaf.

Depending on who qualifies and how the categories are phrased in the final bill, the process could grant a path to citizenship for anywhere between 5 million and 10 million people.

Barring impediment from the parliamentarian, inclusion of immigration provisions is gathering steam among Democrats.

Two House members, Reps. Chuy García (D-Ill.) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.), have said they will not vote for a reconciliation bill without immigration provisions.

Others, like Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), have said immigration "must" be included in the bill, but have stopped short of drawing a red line.

The pressure from within the Democratic Caucus, advocacy groups and now mayors has put the weight of immigration reform on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the White House.

While congressional leaders have been more supportive of the need to act on immigration reform quickly, both Biden and Harris have been more circumspect about the chances of a broad legalization through reconciliation.

Biden on Sunday said it "remains to be seen" if immigration can be included in the bill, and Harris told immigration advocates last week she supports a path to citizenship, but it will be difficult to achieve.

Still, the mayors put their weight behind the growing push to hit for the fences on immigration.

"It's time for Congress to act. The only way we can truly Build Back Better is to ensure that Dreamers, TPS holders, and essential workers are included in any economic recovery legislation including through budget reconciliation," wrote the mayors.

Updated 3:40 p.m.

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