Menendez Says Thwarted Senate has Backup Immigration Reform Plans
TRENTON – Although the Senate parliamentarian ruled against Democrats’ bid to include significant immigration reform in the $3.5 trillion social-program spending bill, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said Monday that isn’t the last word.
Menendez, D-N.J., said immigration reform has a direct budgetary impact and that Democrats will return to Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough with a revised proposal that might gain her approval and provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants.
“We were all hugely disappointed on the decision the parliamentarian gave last night, but for me at least, this ruling does not mean that this process is over,” said Menendez, who said the immigration reform movement “doesn’t give up easily.”
“This is not an end, and I certainly intend to keep working until we get to a yes,” he said. “And we’re not going to take no for an answer.”
Menendez said he was returning Monday to Washington from New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez, in a noon conference call with reporters, said he had not yet spoken in detail with other Senate Democrats about the next steps. His first choice would be to change an immigration registry date set by law to make more people qualify to change their status.
“I personally prefer trying to get the parliamentarian to agree to a registry date change because we’re not changing the law, which was the essence of her argument that I read in her opinion,” Menendez said. “We are just updating a date. There’s a dramatic difference in that.”
Kerri Talbot, deputy director of The Immigration Hub, said the immigration registry date is currently set to 1972 and was last updated in 1986.
“If you were here before that date, you can go ahead and apply for a green card if you meet certain admissibility requirements,” Talbot said. “That law has been around for almost 100 years. It’s been updated four times. So, we view that as an idea for going to the parliamentarian, primarily because it’s an update to existing law.”
Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change Action, said Democrats must deliver on promised immigration reform and “do not get to hide behind the parliamentarian this year.” She said ultimately, the parliamentarian is not an elected official and serves at the pleasure of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. – implying that she could be replaced.
Menendez said that under the Senate’s rules, the parliamentarian decides what’s within the rules for the reconciliation bill. And he said Schumer can’t just replace the parliamentarian without a vote of the Senate for a new appointee.
“While I understand the passion, and I understand the sentiment behind it, I think it’s not necessarily constructive at this point,” Menendez said.