Harry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Voters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (D-Nev.) on Tuesday called on Democrats to push forward on immigration reform in 2021.

“If my 2010 reelection to the Senate proved anything, it was that Democrats can fight and win on immigration. It makes policy sense and political sense and not just with Latino voters, but also with Americans of all backgrounds," said Reid, who famously shifted from being an immigration hawk in the early '90s to backing liberalization as majority leader in 2010.

"However, the operative word is ‘win.’ With Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, Americans expect Democrats to deliver this time on sensible immigration policies," he added.


Immigrant advocates are wary that Democrats could fail to include any sort of immigration provision in this year's reconciliation bill, essentially leaving the issue at the mercy of 10 Senate Republicans.

Democrats have attempted to include three different immigration provisions in the bill, but the first two failed to meet muster with the Senate parliamentarian, the rule-keeper for determining what can be included in the package under Senate rules.

The Democrats are crafting a package that cannot be filibustered by Republicans, which will make it possible to get it through the Senate if Democrats are unified around it. But there are specific rules for what provisions can be included in the filibuster-proof measure.

The first two proposals, which gave legal permanent residency to millions of undocumented immigrants and immigrants on humanitarian visas, were deemed by the Senate parliamentarian as incompatible with the rules of reconciliation.

A third, which grants temporary relief but not permanent legal residency — and thus no path to citizenship — for millions of people is currently being negotiated between Senate Democrats and the parliamentarian's office.


Advocates and some Democrats are growing increasingly tired of the back-and-forth, which they argue is unnecessary, as the parliamentarian's ruling is advisory in nature, and the chamber's presiding officer has the final say on what can and cannot be included in reconciliation.

Reid, who as Senate leader weakened the chamber's filibuster on presidential nominations, did not specify how he wants Senate leaders to push through, but made clear that voters could turn on Democrats if no immigration deal comes through.

“By 3-to-1 margins and across party lines, Americans want legal status for immigrants who have worked hard, paid taxes and made their lives in the United States. After decades of waiting to fix this broken immigration system, the voters that rejected Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE’s nativism, and gave power to Democrats, are not going to give us a free pass if all we come back with are procedural excuses," said Reid.

Since Reid's reelection in 2010, Nevada has become more Democratic in large part because of Latino voters and the promise of immigration reform.

Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoConservative group targeting Kelly, Hassan, Cortez Masto in multi-million-dollar ad blitz 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (D-Nev.), Reid's successor, is up for reelection in 2022 in what could become one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.


Still, both the White House and Democratic congressional leadership have tread carefully on the matter of immigration.

Advocates say the 2021 reconciliation process could be the last opportunity for a broad legalization program for years or decades, arguing that the political and economic benefits of acting boldly on immigration would outweigh any backlash.

“I have seen the human and economic consequences of this broken system. The current system rips families apart, destroys otherwise prosperous businesses, and keeps millions of hardworking people fearing deportation. We must fix this. This is the year. The time is now,” said Reid.