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Padilla says citizenship path in reconciliation is ‘realistic’

He also thinks the White House supports the effort: 'I haven't been told no'

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., departs from the Senate floor after a vote in the Capitol in May.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., departs from the Senate floor after a vote in the Capitol in May. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Alex Padilla, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration panel, said Tuesday it was his “understanding and expectation” that a pathway to permanent status for undocumented immigrants would be included in Democrats’ budget reconciliation package.

“I do think it could be a matter of just a couple of months, if all the necessary steps are taken,” the California Democrat said regarding a timeline to green light relief for millions of undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the U.S. as children.

“And thus far, my understanding and expectation is that immigration is included in that reconciliation package,” he said in a call with reporters and advocates. “It seems pretty optimistic and ambitious, and it is, but it’s also very realistic. We just need a few important things to fall in place.”

Padilla also said he believes the White House supports efforts to establish a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants through reconciliation.

“Are they aware of my interest and my request? Absolutely. And I haven’t been told no,” he said. “I believe the White House is supportive of both an ambitious infrastructure package, and as substantive immigration reform as you can achieve in any way possible.”

Advocates have called on Democrats to include immigration provisions in a budget reconciliation package, which would include trillions of dollars for party priorities such as child care and climate change, in acknowledgment that a standalone immigration bill would be unlikely to garner the Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

Many Democrats have been supportive of passing those protections, and Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, D-Ill., drew a firm line in the sand last week when he stated he would not vote for a budget reconciliation package that failed to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

A preliminary outline of Senate Democrats’ reconciliation resolution set aside $126 billion, largely to create a pathway to permanent residency for certain categories of undocumented immigrants, as well as $24 billion in border security funding.

[Sanders budget plan would spend more, tax less than Biden]

However, procedural rules threaten to derail that effort and close a door for Democrats to pass key immigration legislation while they still hold a majority in both chambers.

Padilla conceded there remains the “outstanding question” of whether Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough will permit lawmakers to include a path to citizenship in a reconciliation package, which can pass with a simple majority vote. Earlier this year, MacDonough thwarted Democrats’ efforts to shove a minimum wage increase through reconciliation.

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., has said that it’s unlikely that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, would comply with Senate reconciliation rules.

Caroline Simon, Jennifer Shutt and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.   

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