Democrats ready to pitch "plan B" for amnesty

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Senate Parliamentarian may have shot the Democrats’ dreams of a sweeping amnesty for illegal aliens in the reconciliation bill down in flames, but Chuck Schumer and his colleagues don’t appear to be taking Ilhan Omar’s advice about ignoring the rules to heart. Instead, they’ve been huddling up and constructing some alternate offers that they hope might still allow them to accomplish the same thing. At first glance, the replacement proposals being discussed look like little more than word games intended to create an amnesty program without actually using the word “amnesty.” But who knows? The rules of order in the Senate are arcane, and they might actually be able to pull this off. (The Hill)

At the top of the list is a congressional mandate for the executive to change the registry date for certain undocumented immigrants and beneficiaries of humanitarian parole programs, essentially implementing a statute of limitations for past unauthorized entries.

That method of legalization has the benefit of having been successfully implemented in the past, and it wouldn’t require changing the law. Instead, it would just update a cutoff date.

“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,” said Menendez.

There’s a lot of “lawyer-speak” going on here, but it’s difficult to see how a new set of wording that produces what would essentially be the same result isn’t still “a policy change that went well beyond the budget,” as the Parliamentarian described it. Currently, illegal aliens who have been in the country for a long period of time while keeping their noses clean can apply for permanent resident status, though approval is not assured. Menendez is proposing that the cutoff date be moved up to 2010, so any illegals arriving in the country before then would now be eligible to apply.

Other Democrats and immigration activists aren’t happy with that date, however, because it would leave a lot of more recently arriving illegal aliens off the eligibility list. One spokesperson for the liberal National Immigration Law Center is quoted as saying she’s pushing for the cutoff date to be moved up to at least 2015, and preferably 2020. Did you catch that? We’re talking about last year. The only people who wouldn’t be allowed to immediately apply are those who jumped the border in the last nine months.

The only reason the provision in question was put in place was that some legislators felt there should be a chance for illegal immigrants to demonstrate that they had not committed other criminal acts after arriving and were staying on the straight and narrow path. This new, most aggressive plan would reward illegal aliens for essentially managing to not get arrested since New Year’s Eve.

How is that not a fundamental change to the existing policy? It turns the waiting period into a joke. And it also does nothing to convert this provision into something that more closely fits the definition of a “budget” item than their last attempt did. Again, these are little more than word games.

The scary part about this is that we can’t necessarily rely on the Parliamentarian to apply any level of common sense beyond the letter of the law. Changing an existing law or policy isn’t the same as creating an entirely new one out of whole cloth. While the proposed change would be radical in nature and effectively wipe out an existing restriction, she might say that it technically leaves an existing rule in place while altering one of its parameters. If so, then the Democrats might still get away with this.

But even if that happens, that still leaves the so-called reconciliation bill in treacherous waters, and perhaps even more so. Keep in mind that not only is the current proposed bill $2 trillion larger than Joe Manchin wanted to see, but he has previously said that he’s not a fan of amnesty, either. His party may simply be piling on additional excuses for him to tank the entire thing.