Is Amnesty Infrastructure?

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By Luke Hanson and Federation for American Immigration Reform. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Preston:
good morning and welcome to another edition of FAIR’s understanding immigration podcast this is Preston Huennekens FAIR’s government relations manager and I’m joined today by our research director spencer Raley and our press secretary Matthew Tragesser today we have a very interesting episode for you congressional democrats are moving forward with a two-pronged approach to infrastructure funding something that President Biden considers one of his top priorities infrastructure funding is actually an issue that has significant bipartisan support in Washington really the biggest issue between the parties is simply how much money are we gonna spend on it and where is that spending going to come from so far a bipartisan group of over 20 senators recently introduced a framework for a bill that is going to move through regular order in the senate and the house that bill addresses actual infrastructure funding for things like dams roads bridges harbors and airports President Biden has already come out and said that he supports this bill this bipartisan framework calls for about 579 billion dollars in new spending over five years and about $1.2 trillion in total spending over eight years the agreement calls for the for the funding to be paid for by using unused covid money and also by strengthening the enforcement of tax laws so in a normal world this would be enough 1.2 trillion dollars in infrastructure spending over eight years is a pretty massive bill yet congressional democrats are simultaneously drafting a massive separate bill through the process of budget reconciliation and worse they plan to use this reconciliation bill to amnesty nearly six million illegal aliens this is somewhat of a tricky subject this idea of budget reconciliation and how immigration functions into it so Spencer I want to bring this to you to briefly explain what this process is.

Spencer:
thanks Preston so reconciliation is a method of legislation used by the house and senate to make decisions related to spending taxes and budget deficits and a very general explanation of the process is as follows the senate and the house both adopt a budget resolution that instructs certain committees to develop legislation that covers certain items on their budgetary wish list the committees create the legislation by a specified deadline that they're given and then send it back to the house and senate who then votes on it on their specific bills via expedited process the house and senate must then resolve any differences between their two bills because you have one from the house you have one from the senate before they can cast a final vote on the measure and this is where things often tend to get interesting it's especially important because in the senate a member can challenge really any part of the bill by citing something known as the Byrd rule which is essentially just a list of procedures and rules for what can and cannot be included in a bill that is going through the reconciliation process one really relevant rule under the whole Byrd procedure is that whatever is included in the measure must be germane to the overall bill being considered and the senate parliamentarian a supposedly non-partisan referee of the whole process must then rule on whether or not that part of the bill is directly related to the overall bill being considered and we might remember this from back in February of this year when senate democrats tried to add a $15 federal minimum wage to the covid relief bill that was being considered and the senate parliamentarian ruled that this doesn't have anything directly to do with the covid relief bill therefore it can't be included it has to be passed via a method of non-reconciliation or else a bill has to be more related to a minimum wage now reconciliation is important for what we're talking about right now because it doesn't require 60 votes in the senate for final approval like typical legislation does instead it requires just a simple majority in both the house of representatives and in the senate in order for it to be sent to the president's desk for a signature and right now of course the senate is comprised of 50 republicans and 50 democrats so if the democrats can unify behind this issue they can at the very worst insure a tie vote and in the case of a tie of course the vice president Kamala Harris would cast a deciding vote and she would assuredly cast that deciding vote for the democrats this isn't necessarily a new thing it's happened a number of times in the past for example the major 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts were passed via reconciliation as was Obamacare in 2010 and the Trump tax cuts in 2017 and like I already mentioned it occurred earlier this year to pass that massive covid funding bill in February so kind of in summary democrats are wanting to take on amnesty and attach it to a budget bill that really has nothing to do with immigration at all the bulk of this bill like you mentioned Preston is about infrastructure and the last time I checked giving amnesty to illegal aliens has nothing to do with funding the construction of roads and of bridges so hopefully the parliamentarian before we even get to that point the parliamentarian will kill any amnesty provision that is included in this bill but if they for whatever reason put something funny in their cup of coffee that morning and ruled that amnesty was somehow germane to the funding of construction for roads and bridges then it would only require all 50 democrats plus the veep to unify and vote yes on the measure in order for it to be sent to the president's desk and that's a kind of alarming prospect even if it is or isn't likely to happen so maybe Preston I’ll go ahead and kick this back to you can kind of explain the political implications of this being considered by the senate.

Preston:
right so again like you mentioned within the infrastructure element the in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill which again is separate from what we're talking about today the bill that we're talking about today is being drafted by the senate budget committee chairman no other than Bernie Sanders the independent from Vermont and he is the one that is drafting this with the other democrats on his committee and on the evening of July 13th he and the democratic senators that were working with him noted that they had agreed to a package totaling about 3.5 trillion dollars so in this bill and which comes which brings up this $3.5 trillion democrats want to address a number of progressive and far left wish list items that could never pass the 60 vote threshold required for legislation in the senate this includes items on climate change education reforms raising taxes expending expanding Medicaid and immigration and so Matthew I want to now bring you in to kind of talk about some of the immigration changes that are being proposed for this bill and I want to emphasize the text has not been released yet this is based off of what has been said by the senators themselves who are crafting the bill what has been reported in the in the mainstream news so could you just kind of explain what is good what is supposedly going to be in it and then also explain why this is such a terrible idea to move immigration changes through the senate in this way.

Matthew:
yeah so there would definitely be some radical and absurd changes with this as you mentioned there's only been kind of drafts of this proposal so nothing is finalized now but as you mentioned Bernie Sanders who is the senate budget committee chairman for this and has a lot of influence he proposed legislation that offered multi-year pathways to permanent legal residency and even potentially a pathway to citizenship for a number of illegal alien groups in our country and so these include people who are brought illegally to the U.S. as children also known as dreamers people who have fled natural disasters or civil wars or violence like that also seen as temporary protected status holders essential workers are also part of this plan this is a very broadly defined group I could think of pretty much any job that would qualify as essential and then also farm workers and yeah so it covers a wide range of different illegal alien groups in this country and also in this plan is 126 billion dollars for processing immigrants for legal status now the Center for American Progress actually estimates that this would affect roughly six million illegal aliens in our country it doesn't cover the entire illegal alien population but that's still a significant portion and it's really just an unacceptable thing that would happen right now and I will have to say these changes are significant they shouldn't be ignored or downplayed and let's not forget the timing for this couldn't be worse we're in the middle of a historic border crisis we've talked about this in pretty much every episode but it hasn't gone away it hasn't improved we're seeing record numbers of legal alien apprehensions at our southern border 180,000 in May which is the latest data available the most amount for a month in 20 plus years the number of children in federal custody who have crossed the border unlawfully it remains at record highs and so when you propose and pass legislation like this like an amnesty it basically tells people hey if you cross the southern border or any border in our country unlawfully you will be rewarded and so this is only going to serve as another magnet exacerbate what we're seeing already at the southern border the timing couldn't be worse you would not it's just it's inconceivable that this is even a priority for them at this moment in time and let's not forget this is an infrastructure bill okay this needs to be focusing on infrastructure projects that these states all around the country heavily need we've explored this a little bit just looking at different states and looking at what looking at their road bridge dam even like drinking water conditions in their in their infrastructure and they're all very poor according to the American society of civil engineers they do a report card literally analyzing all these infrastructure items in these states and most of these states are receiving c d grades almost failing grades and these states really need this money and you would think that if an amnesty gets squeezed in here somehow and we're legalizing six million illegal aliens that's going to require money illegal immigration already costs our country $116 billion annually and so I would imagine that some of this funding would probably be allocated to this amnesty and maybe disappear from projects that are actually needed statewide.

Preston:
one it's funny because that was originally the argument for the reconciliation bill was well we have to negotiate with the republicans because they want to have a smaller overall number and they want it to be entirely paid for with either existed funding that no raised taxes that kind of thing and so the democrats said okay we'll do that and then we will bring up the rest of what we wanted in physical infrastructure through the reconciliation bill which could include raising taxes things of that nature and then it just turned into this chorus of people saying well if we're already doing that let's throw everything else in there let's this obviously isn't pertinent to immigration per se but let's put in the education reforms that we've wanted for 20 years let's put in the climate change bills that we've wanted for 20 plus years and so it's fascinating to see how quickly democrats from all corners of their party came in and said wait let's stuff as many of our priorities as we can in this bill because I think a lot of them recognize that after 2022 there may not be three they might not have the house this in the senate anymore.

Spencer:
yeah so essentially what they're doing with this what's supposed to be a budget bill is turning it into an omnibus bill for their entire wish list their entire platform essentially is just one avenue to put hopefully everything they want into a single bill and then pass it by a simple majority which is really kind of alarming and Matthew like you mentioned this was supposed to be a bill that finally fixes some of the major infrastructure problems we have in this in this in this country and I think just kind of a unfortunate representation of this entire process you can think of just a couple of weeks ago here in DC a bridge literally a pedestrian bridge literally collapsed onto the freeway killing a couple of people and literally while that was happening you have democrats in congress saying hey let's minimize how much we're putting into fixing bridges fixing roads and instead give that money to a process to legalize millions of illegal aliens and let's be honest i know the number we're seeing that's floating around is 6 million but like you mentioned Matthew based on this idea that we're going to offer amnesty to quote essential workers if you look at some of the figures being tossed around there are a number of groups that claim as many as 80% of illegal aliens working in the United States right now work in an essential field and that ranges anywhere from working a drive-through at mcdonald's to restocking shelves at a walmart so

(Preston: Grubhub delivery drivers, yeah anything)

exactly yeah exactly they're not all white lab coat workers creating new vaccines to combat covid and other major occupations like that but in addition to that most of these organizations estimate the total illegal alien population as being lower than what we estimate it to be here at FAIR and then they're often not considering family members who are either going to be offered amnesty or else they're going to be sponsored and receive a visa at some point in addition to these workers and then they're going to sponsor their family members to come to the United States and so on so it's going to have a very broad effect for much longer than even just I hate to call it limited because it's not limited it's at least six million individuals and probably a lot more but it's just going to keep on having an effect on the American public for years for decades to come and it could completely change the social fabric of this country.

Preston:
so from a timing perspective this is all going to be happening very quickly senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi want to get this done before the August recess begins and railroading the country by forcing an amnesty through the reconciliation process is really something else there are really three possibilities that can happen at this point the first is that the sentiment parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough rules that the immigration provisions violate the Byrd rule this would prevent any amnesty from becoming a part of the reconciliation package and from FAIR’s perspective this is the best case scenario this would cleanly strip the amnesty out you wouldn't be going back and forth about oh different numbers can go in it a clean strip out from the parliamentarian is the best case scenario and then there's the worst case scenario which is that she rules that the amnesty can be included and all 50 democrats vote in favor of the reconciliation package with that Vice President Kamala Harris casts the 51st vote the house of representatives then keeps their caucus together and passes the senate bill with very few if any democratic defections and then eventually goes to Biden’s desk for a signature and with not a single republican vote in a 50-50 senate and a very in a razor thin house majority the democrats put more than six million illegal aliens on a pathway to citizenship right under the nose of the American people just before an election year again that is a lot of heavy lifting for the democrats but they've they have done it before they did it with Obamacare even members who knew that they were going to lose by voting for something like that they may say what I’m going to go for it this is a once in a generation vote it's not unthinkable that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer could keep their caucus together and get it done but there is a third option in this scenario the parliamentarian rules that the immigration provisions can be included but one or more democratic senators either demand that it be stripped from the bill or ultimately choose to vote against the bill on the floor let's remember there are 14 democratic senators up for re-election in 2022 who may choose to vote in favor of the regular bipartisan infrastructure bill that doesn't have any of the crazy amnesty stuff but then maybe will not want to vote for this reconciliation package for instance I can think of senator Mark Kelly who narrowly won in Arizona a border state he is up for re-election in 2022 to fill out the rest of that term yeah and Arizona just the polling out of there they are not thrilled with Biden’s immigration policies immigration in a state like Arizona is a huge issue is Senator Kelly really going to vote to legalize six million illegal aliens shortly before his re-election in addition to everything else that Senator Bernie Sanders is going to write into this bill as the budget chairman another one is Raphael Warnock another senator up for reelection in traditionally red Georgia is he and also he's in a similar situation where he's filling out the term right is he gonna do the same thing and then there's on the other side outside of the re-election angle there are traditionally more centrist democratic senators such as Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia one or both of them could decide to vote against the reconciliation package Senator Manchin in particular is in a unique situation he represents a state that former President Trump won by 40 points and he is up for re-election in 2024 in a presidential year in a state that is now one of the reddest in the country it is so red that the current governor Jim Justice became a republican while he was an incumbent democrat so as this battle is really heating up in the senate I think we can all expect there to be a lot of attention on Senator Manchin out of West Virginia to see what he's thinking and where his priorities lie because it really might come down to him.

Spencer:
right and honestly with the Manchin in particular if he were to vote for this it would be political suicide so the decision he's making right now and has to make would be do I want to continue my political career or am I happy with one more senate term and retire and have my entire state disapprove of what I did so i think you're right with Manchin especially that's where a lot of the pressure and the attention is going to be but you've also you mentioned Senator Sinema who has made a real name for herself of being kind of the moderate voice of reason in the senate so is she going to want to undo that good will by voting for something this radical we already saw her lose favor with the far left earlier this year by voting down a couple of their favorite pieces of legislation so it's really interesting and really what it's I think it's going to expose is to what degree do Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have their thumb on the entire their entire caucus in the house and the senate like are they able to hold unity to such an extreme degree that their senators will essentially commit political suicide in order to vote with their party or is this possibly even going to be a situation where they're okay with letting some of these at least most extreme things in this package go by the wayside in order to kind of save the broader perspective because again this is really what it comes down to are they willing to sacrifice possibly even the entire infrastructure package but at the very least all of these reconciliation items in order to try to stuff an amnesty through it's a question that democrats need to be asking themselves.

Preston:
right and I will say I think that I do not envy Chuck Schumer in this situation Nancy Pelosi has a better track record of keeping her caucus together and I also do think there is a sense that no matter what the house does it will probably flip in 2022 that is not necessarily the case in the senate the democrats can still keep the senate but Chuck Schumer does not have this reputation of keeping his caucus together through thick and thin the way that Mitch McConnell does on the republican side and so I think he is in a very interesting situation where of course I do think Chuck Schumer would love for this to be included in the bill but like you said Spencer is he going to sacrifice the chance to keep the senate and democratic hands after 2022 over one wish list item in an otherwise massive reconciliation bill…

Spencer:
Exactly and it's important I know I’ve seen some people say well if they're going to lose the house what difference does it make of course right now the house has it's a tiny buffer but it's enough of a buffer that even if one or two house members would flip on this the bill would probably still pass but again thinking in terms of the long game if you lose the house in 2022 democrats would really like to hang on to the senate because again if it's if it's going to be a razor thin margin in the house you might be able to pass at least compromised versions of some bills that make it through the senate put some pressure on republicans looking forward to the 2024 elections but if you lose both the house and senate you're not going to have any of these provisions even come up really in either house of congress and it's just going to be gridlocked for the rest of the presidential term so it's really interesting from a strategy perspective as well for democrats and it'll be interesting to see if what they end up doing.

Matthew:
yeah just to kind of sum up here I mean I just think that this backdoor maneuver trying to jam an amnesty into this bill would actually be career suicide for a lot of these individuals in the senate I mean we kind of talked about it but I mean think about how this would look to an everyday voter someone who's an American who's following politics I mean by doing this you are not only getting around the traditional legislative process on kind of opening this up to both chambers and letting the public have a say and how they react to certain legislation but also think about like this is not just like a small issue this is immigration which covers and really touches almost every single component of our American society today this is not like a small little thing that well we'll just minimize the impact it's going to have it's going to be a large impact and we've talked about already the ramifications of an amnesty of this size and the fiscal impacts even but I just think that it sets a terrible precedent and it really blows up long-standing senate rules that were never envisioned to be exploited like this.

Preston:
yeah that's absolutely right and I think Matthew that's probably as good a point as any to end on today so for our listeners at home we hope you learn more about the reconciliation process and how it is currently being used to potentially amnesty six million illegal aliens for more information on this topic we really encourage you to visit our website fairus.org as well as our blog immigrationreform.com we're putting out a lot of information on this topic because it is such an important issue that is facing the congress right now and that's facing the American people if you enjoy understanding immigration we hope that you will subscribe wherever you find our podcasts and until next time this has been Understanding Immigration presented by FAIR.

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