Some House Latinos Voice Frustration as Immigration Reform Stalls in Senate

Oct 20, 2021
5:39 PM

Rep. Chuy García, D-IL

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Five members of the House Hispanic Caucus, all Democrats, held a press conference on Wednesday to advocate for permanent immigrant relief provisions in the Democrats’ sprawling budget bill currently being negotiated on Capitol Hill.

Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY), Veronica Escobar (TX), Chuy García (IL), Lou Correa (CA), and Tony Cárdenas (CA) arrived just after noon at the House Triangle with an axe to grind.

“We know President Obama made the promise of immigration reform, then nothing happened,”  Rep. Correa told Latino Rebels. “My concern and the concern of my constituents is another replay of that scenario.”

Correa is one of a group of Hispanic Caucus members led by Rep. García who have said they will oppose the Build Back Better Act —President Biden’s signature social spending plan— if permanent immigrant relief is stripped from the bill.

Reps. Espaillat and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) have also indicated they will oppose the Biden agenda in the House of Representatives if immigration reform is left out of the Biden social spending plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, both currently being negotiated in Congress.

At issue is guidance issued by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough opposing immigrant relief in the budget reconciliation package. MacDonough works in an advisory capacity in the Senate. Parliamentarian guidance is non-binding, and she can be dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer.

“I know for a fact that our four Democratic Senate Latinos are working with the leadership, are working very hard,” Cárdenas told reporters at Wednesday’s press conference. “Hopefully they’re wearing down the leadership there to get them to do the right thing and then we can move forward.”

Correa was more blunt.

“This woman is clearly missing the economic picture, but the central issue is she was not elected,” said the congressman representing Orange County, California. “Trent Lott fired a parliamentarian. What’s the problem today?”

In 2001, Senate Majority Leader Lott (R-MS) fired then-Parliamentarian Robert Dove over policy disagreements.

“So far we’ve been struck down twice” by the parliamentarian, Rep. Chuy Garcia told reporters on Wednesday, “and that should be a wakeup call for Democrats in the Senate that the parliamentarian is simply an advisor, and to do as Republicans have done in the past: either put aside that ruling or fire the parliamentarian, then rule that something is in-order for consideration by a simple majority vote that can get us immigration reform.”

The presiding officer of the Senate can overrule the parliamentarian. Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, is likely to be the presiding officer if the budget reconciliation bill reaches the floor of the upper chamber for a vote.

“We think the plan will be morally bankrupt if it leaves behind people who put their lives on the line during the pandemic,” Rep. Espaillat told Latino Rebels on Wednesday. “There is no reason at this juncture, as we approved close to $3 trillion to help recuperate the economy, that we don’t include immigration reform.”

Conspicuously absent from the midday press event was Hispanic Caucus Chair Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also skipped the immigration presser, despite attending a climate change press event immediately before and another for faith-based advocates immediately after.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports