After decades of failed attempts to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, congressional Democrats and President Biden are signaling openness to a piece-by-piece approach, the AP reports. They unveiled a broad bill Thursday that would provide an eight-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million people living in the country without legal status. There are other provisions, too, but the Democrats are not talking all-or-nothing. “Even though I support full, comprehensive immigration reform, I’m ready to move on piecemeal, because I don’t want to end up with good intentions on my hands and not have anything,” said Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar. “I’d rather have progress.” The pragmatic approach is a clear recognition of the past failures to deliver on a large-scale immigration overhaul—and how success could be even more difficult in a highly polarized, closely divided Congress.
The Democrats' legislation reflects the broad priorities for immigration changes that Biden laid out on his first day in office, including an increase in visas, more money to process asylum applications, new technology at the southern border, and funding for economic development in Latin American countries. The legislation—which includes a pathway to citizenship, but not much in the way of the enhanced border security that's typically offered to win Republican votes—faces long odds with Democrats holding only a slender majority in Congress. Even before the new bill was unveiled, Democrats were reining in expectations for their final result. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin has said that any final Senate bill likely “will not reach the same levels” as Biden’s proposal. (Much more here, including one advocate who says, "This will be the fight, the defining fight.")