José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

Behind closed doors and forced marches, Democratic Congressional leaders negotiate the final draft of a massive $ 3.5 Trillion human infrastructure package, which includes the crucial immigration reform proposal that could benefit millions of DREAMers, essential workers and beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

If the negotiations come to fruition, which is not guaranteed due to opposition from a handful of Democrats, especially West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, this is the best opportunity in years to complete an elementary act of justice for the immigrant community that has sacrificed and lost so much during the pandemic.

There is a possibility that infrastructure package will be the object of a final vote through the legislative reconciliation process, that is, where it only requires a simple majority, therefore no Republican votes would be necessary; where in previous years a handful of conservatives have blocked immigration reform, especially in the Senate.

More than 700 elected leaders of the country, including mayors, state legislators, members of councils and local boards sent a timely letter to both the White House and Congress urging them to prioritize the inclusion of a “clean” path to citizenship for essential workers.

One of those elected leaders is Raquel Terán, a legislator in the local Arizona House of Representatives. “Now is the time, this is the year. And we want to make it very clear. To build back better, we have to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind. Everyone’s hands are needed, including immigrants.”

Her colleague Michaelle Solage, a Haitian-born Assemblyman in the New York Legislature, agrees. “These have been traumatic years, first the COVID 19 pandemic and now tropical storm IDA. We want the Biden administration and Congress to prioritize a path to citizenship for essential workers and their families.”

The Democrats’ roadmap contemplates reaching a final vote no later than September 27, but unfortunately, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin threw a bucket of water on that possibility, when he declared bluntly that he will not vote in favor of a plan that includes spending 3.5 trillion dollars.

“What’s the urgency?” Senator Manchin asked in an interview with NBC over the weekend. In his opinion, the resources that Congress has allocated to help the population during the pandemic have been sufficient. The senator suggested that he would only support a package in the range of 1 to 1.5 trillion.

For progressive sections of Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Manchin’s position is “unacceptable.” Unfortunately, in the current state of affairs, Democrats need the votes of all their legislators to get the package approved, considering that zero votes are expected from Republicans.

Although it always makes sense to strategically design public spending, missing the historic opportunity to pass immigration reform would be unfair and would have a high social cost for millions of migrants who have sacrificed their lives during the pandemic. But it will also come at a high political cost for Democrats in 2022.

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