Democrats Divided Over Parliamentarian’s Immigration Past

Nov 5, 2021
4:25 PM

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrats in Congress are divided over whether Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough can render an impartial judgment on immigrant relief proposals after Latino Rebels published a report Monday showing that MacDonough likely worked as an immigration prosecutor in the late nineties.

“I just don’t think that she should be the deciding factor if that is her background,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). “There are people’s lives at stake.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took her criticisms a step further, telling reporter Aida Chavez of The Nation that she thinks MacDonough should have been recused from deciding immigrant relief proposals.

“I think there’s an absolute conflict of interest,” said the Congresswoman on Wednesday. “And I still think she should be recused.”

MacDonough advised against two proposals for including a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s sprawling social spending legislation that Congressional Democrats hope to pass through budget reconciliation this year.

Both proposals were led by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and would have helped millions of immigrants by giving them a long-sought pathway to citizenship in the United States.

Durbin now leads a third proposal to the Parliamentarian that, if enacted into law, would create a form of temporary immigrant parole that would protect some classes of immigrants from deportation and offer work permits.

Immigrant parole is far short of the pathway to citizenship that Democrats promised last year on the campaign trail in an election where immigrants mobilized to oust then-President Donald Trump from the White House and give Democrats slim majorities in both chambers of Congress.

On Wednesday, Latino Rebels asked Durbin about MacDonough’s work as an immigrant prosecutor. “That is an effort to drag her down,” said Durbin, “and I don’t think that’s appropriate at all.”

Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) both said it was “concerning” that the person tasked by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) with deciding the germaneness of immigrant relief proposals within budget reconciliation bills likely began her career helping to deport immigrants.

“Given the sensitivity, given the urgency, and given the divisiveness of the issue,” said Grijalva, “any indication of a bias, a predetermined decision, or an attitude about that question, yeah… it’s problematic.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told Latino Rebels at a press conference Thursday that she disagreed with MacDonough’s non-binding guidance on registry, the second of two immigrant relief proposals rejected by the Parliamentarian so far.

“You’ll have to talk to the Senate [for] judgments about their people,” said Pelosi.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also told Latino Rebels on Thursday that his major concern with the Parliamentarian, beyond disagreeing with her anti-immigrant guidance on relief proposals, is that while MacDonough’s “advice” is technically non-binding, there is no process to appeal it.

The Parliamentarian “is the only person in the Senate that can make a decision without any recourse,” said Menendez, in effect making her the “unelected … 101st senator.”


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