Biden’s Bid for Broad Immigration Revamp Unlikely, Durbin Says


President Joe Biden’s plan for a broad immigration overhaul, including a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., doesn’t have enough support to pass Congress anytime soon, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said.

“I don’t see any means of reaching that,” Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said of a comprehensive approach.

House Democrats have already opted for a piecemeal approach and plan to vote this week on two narrower measures for agricultural workers and young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee that would consider those bills, said he wants to see if there is support to move them through the Senate.

“I think Speaker Pelosi has discovered she doesn’t have the support for a comprehensive bill in the House,” Durbin said. “And I think that indicates where it is in the Senate as well.”

Biden has proposed a plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the U.S., would bolster assistance to Central American countries and would ease immigration for people fleeing violence. Republicans declared the proposal, which did not include any added resources to secure the border, dead on arrival.

A surge of migrants at the border is highlighting the practical and political challenges of immigration reform, which could complicate Democrats’ efforts, Durbin said.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that 100,441 people tried to cross the border illegally in February, the first full month of the Biden administration, a 28% increase over January. More than 9,500 unaccompanied children came to the border in February, a 62% jump above January.

During a Monday visit to a detention center in El Paso, Texas, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said Biden’s stance on immigration is luring more people from Central America. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee that Durbin chairs, is also among those calling for the border situation to be addressed.

The two bills the House is set to vote on this week would provide a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants eligible for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and would allow farm workers who don’t have legal status to obtain a green card.

Durbin said he wants to push those House-passed bills through the Senate Judiciary Committee and then onto the Senate floor.

But Graham said the effort to get immigration legislation through the Judiciary Committee is made far more complicated by the influx of migrants at the border.

“I think it’s going to be really difficult with what’s going on at the border,” he said.

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