Can Dems overcome Senate parliamentarian’s blow to their immigration push?

As the Biden administration cracks down on immigrants at the southern border, Amna Nawaz takes a wider look at the status of immigration reform in this country, and what's at stake, with Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

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  • Judy Woodruff :

    And Amna Nawaz now takes a wider look at the status of immigration reform in this country and what's at stake.

  • Amna Nawaz :

    That's right, Judy.

    Well, joining me now to take that bigger look at immigration reform right now is Marielena Hincapie. She is the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

    Marielena, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thanks for making the time.

    You heard Secretary Mayorkas say earlier down at Del Rio, we're in the midst of a pandemic and in the middle of a critical migration challenge. These arriving Haitians are not going to be treated any differently than anyone else arriving at any other part of the border. That is to say, they will be immediately expelled.

    Just broadly speaking, what is your reaction to the way the administration has handled this latest crisis at the border?

  • Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center :

    Yes, thank you for the invitation.

    These images from Del Rio are horrific. It is incredible that the Biden-Harris administration is using a failed approach of deterrent strategy, when these are the very people — when you look at those images, there is no difference between them, except for their names, their national origin, and their black skin, when you compare them to people coming from Afghanistan, who we are welcoming, and should be welcoming to the United States.

    We urge the administration to stop the deportation flights to Haiti. This is a moment when the Biden-Harris administration must put an end to Western Hemispheric bias, to people coming from the south of the border, whether it's from Haiti, whether it's from Colombia, the Northern Triangle of Central America, or Mexico. They should also have the legal ability to file for asylum, to seek asylum and safety and freedom in our nation.

  • Amna Nawaz :

    But, Marielena, whether it's in Del Rio or in the Rio Grande Valley or another part of the border, it feels like we are seeing and talking about another — quote, unquote — "crisis" every few months now. And this goes back years, whichever group is arriving and sort of overwhelming the system as it exists.

    There hasn't been meaningful reform in over 30 years. And now we're all looking at this news today, where Senate Democrats tried to advance some small immigration reform and were basically blocked by the Senate parliamentarian. So what now when it comes to reform?

  • Marielena Hincapie :

    So, I would say a couple of things.

    One is, what we're witnessing at the border, as well as in Afghanistan, is a global crisis, one that is being fueled by foreign policy, by some of our failed domestic policies, by climate crisis and then, of course, by the recent, for example, in Haiti, the earthquake and political assassination of their president.

    So we need to take a step back, right? President Biden was elected by a historic number of a multigenerational, multiracial coalition of voters who rejected, outright rejected the divisive an anti-immigrant agenda of the previous administration, because President Biden talked about having a vision for a 21st century immigration system that recognizes that immigrants are a strength to our nation, and that centers the dignity and humanity of immigrants.

    That is not what we are seeing at the border right now. So that's the first thing.

    Second is, the reconciliation process that Lisa just reported on really shows us that we have a person, the Senate parliamentarian, who was not elected to office, saying that the legalization, the path to citizenship that Democrats put forth does not belong there, despite the fact that it does have a budgetary impact, a profound budgetary impact.

    And so we are urging and are very encouraged, actually, by Senate champions who are saying that they will keep trying to get that path to citizenship. There are alternatives. There are options that we're looking at and working closely with our Senate champions.

    We believe that Democrats were elected both in the Senate and the House and the White House. They have a governing trifecta, and they must deliver…


  • Amna Nawaz :

    But what — Marielena, to be clear, what is it you want them to do? Do you want them to ignore the parliamentarian? What are some of these alternative proposals?

  • Marielena Hincapie :

    Yes, so we believe that there are a number of options, including, for example, with the parliamentarian's ruling leaves opening that, if there is a way to use existing law, for example, updating the registry date.

    Amna, the immigration system is so outdated and dysfunctional. It has not — the registry date, the last time that was updated was in 1971. I wasn't even in this country yet. And so there are registry — there are a number of different changes that could be made to existing law that would provide that path to citizenship.

    I will say this as well, that, if for whatever reason, the Senate Democrats are not successful in getting the parliamentarian to include a path to citizenship, to include legalization for immigrants, we are urging them to use their political power and all of the tools at their disposal, because they have been elected by voters, not the Senate parliamentarian.

    So, if it is necessary to negate the parliamentarian, that is what they should do.

  • Amna Nawaz :

    That is Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, joining us tonight.

    Thank you so much for your time.

  • Marielena Hincapie :

    Thank you.

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