When President Joe Biden unveiled an immigration bill on the first day in office, he sent a signal to advocates, the Democratic base, and Congress that the issue was a top priority for him.But even as the president and Democrats on the Hill begin the heavy lift of turning a priority into law, the White House is weighing taking a secondary path: doing it piece by piece.
Multiple sources close to the administration said they expect the White House will let Congress take the lead on forging reform — even though Biden introduced his own bill. The White House will provide guidance. And, indeed, chief of staff Ron Klain and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are said to be hands-on and “feel a responsibility and an ownership” over the immigration push already, according to one of the sources close to the White House.
I want to be clear: There is nothing about the way they are behaving right now that suggests it is not a priority,” said Lorella Praeli, president of Community Change Action, a progressive grassroots group. “And in the event that it were not [a priority], they will lose the majority in 2022
But the main objective is progress. And if that means moving components of reform through Congress one at a time, or in smaller packages, Biden will be fine with that, two sources close to the White House said.
Congress to hash out
Biden’s proposal, introduced hours after he was sworn in, includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, expanded refugee resettlement and more technology deployed to the border. Though he is leaving Congress to hash out the mechanics of passing his immigration plan, he’s also moving ahead with a slate of executive actions on Friday. Among the orders in the works are one that restores asylum protections and another that creates a task force to reunify families separated at the border.
Biden sent his plan to the Hill immediately.
Taken together, Biden’s legislative immigration plan and swift unilateral actions present a clear departure from the last time a Democrat was in the White House. At a minimum, Biden seems keen to avoid the missteps during former President Barack Obama’s first term, when Democrats controlled both chambers, but Obama didn’t pursue comprehensive immigration reform. Rather than wait until after the 2022 midterms or into a second term, Biden sent his plan to the Hill immediately.