Manchin Signals Support For Immigration Bill Creating Pathway To Citizenship
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Topline

As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) angers many Democrats with his positions on Senate procedure and some major bills passed by the House, he is also signaling support for the central goal of Democratic immigration reform proposals set to be considered by the Senate later this month.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 05: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) walks on the senate side of the Capitol Building … [+] on Friday, March 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate finally took up the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package and continues to debate it, with infighting within the Senate Democrat ranks over unemployment benefits threatens to hinder progress. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Key Facts

After a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who, like Manchin, is seen as a relative conservative in his caucus, Manchin echoed GOP calls for increased border security and called the surge of migrants crossing the border a “crisis.”

But Manchin also reiterated his belief that immigration reform “should be a pathway to citizenship” because, while they might have come to the U.S. the “wrong way,” they also “came for the right reason.”

Manchin specifically said he believes there should be a pathway to citizenship for dreamers – millions of young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – which is the aim of a House bill passed last month with support from a handful of Republicans.

The House also passed a bill granting legal status to undocumented farm workers with the support of 30 Republicans, meeting Manchin’s common demand that sweeping legislation passed by Congress be bipartisan.

But Manchin, a key vote for Senate Democrats on any legislation given their 1-seat majority, told reporters last month that immigration reform would likely only pass “if you secure the border first.”

Key Background

Manchin has repeatedly pointed to a 2013 immigration bill adding 40,000 border patrol agents and creating a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants as the ideal version of an immigration bill. That bill passed the Senate 68-32 but was not considered by the House, which was then controlled by Republicans.

Crucial Quote

“Joe Biden is the one person who can put the compassion to doing this and doing this right… and not have an attitude that someone else is responsible,” Manchin said Thursday, despite Biden’s lackluster polling on immigration in the face of a barrage of GOP attacks on the issue. Manchin told Forbes last month that he communicates frequently with Biden, stating, “When I need him, he’s there.”

Big Number

10. That’s how many Republican votes Democrats would ultimately need to pass immigration reform in the Senate, unless they were to eliminate or significantly reform the filibuster. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have both vowed not to eliminate the filibuster, though Manchin has voiced support for making it harder to use.

What To Watch For

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Senate Democrats in a letter last week that immigration reform would be one of several areas of focus when the Senate returns from recess later this month. However, it may take a back seat as Congress works to craft and then pass Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

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