Originally Published in The Nation
Aída Chávez - March 19, 2021
As President Joe Biden attempts to reshape the United States’ often-brutal immigration policy, congressional Democrats are under pressure to address the growing humanitarian crisis on the border and deliver a more comprehensive overhaul of the system. This week, the House passed a pair of immigration bills that would establish paths to citizenship or legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants, including those known as Dreamers and undocumented farmworkers.
Though the bills are only modest pieces of Biden’s broader immigration package, the legislation is expected to face near-insurmountable opposition in the Senate due to the 60-vote procedural requirement. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who, along with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, seems poised to become one of the most prominent swing voters among Senate Democrats, is against killing this supermajority filibuster rule. Her fellow Arizona senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, has been evasive about his position, deferring to platitudes about “bipartisanship.” But recent polling has found that a majority of voters in Sinema’s state believe passing major legislation is more important than preserving archaic Senate procedure.
A February Data for Progress poll found that a majority of Arizona’s likely voters support the Dream Act, ending private detention centers, giving undocumented essential workers a path to citizenship, and the For the People Act, a crucial voting rights and campaign finance reform package that recently passed the House and now faces the Senate.
In the survey, 66 percent of likely voters said they support the Dream Act, while 54 percent supported ending the use of private, for-profit detention facilities to hold immigrants. Both of Arizona’s senators have previously expressed support for the Dream Act—but the Dream Act, as well as any other significant reform, will be doomed without the elimination of the filibuster.
“I’m hopeful that Senator Kelly understands that his imminent political survival requires ending the filibuster and passing the For the People Act so enough Arizonans can vote easily to reelect him next year,” said Kai Newkirk, a progressive organizer and founder of For All.
“As for Senator Sinema, she has to make a moral choice about what she values more. Is it protecting her constituents’ right to vote, finally bringing millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, preserving a livable planet for future generations—all the things she went into public service to do for people? Or her attachments to the bipartisan deal-making of the past and an outdated Senate rule. This polling shows that she also has to choose between listening to an actual bipartisan majority of Arizonans or sticking to her increasingly isolated and extreme position.”
Sixty-seven percent of likely Arizona voters said they support the For the People Act, or HR 1, compared with 18 percent who opposed it. If enacted, HR 1 would drastically expand voting rights, creating a national system for automatic voter registration, ordering nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end gerrymandering, and targeting other Republican attempts at voter suppression. The bill also includes measures that would crack down on the influence of the ultra-wealthy in politics, requiring super PACs and dark-money groups to disclose donors and establishing a public matching fund for small-dollar donations to candidates.
“If the choice is between keeping the filibuster and passing S 1—and it is—the choice has to be S 1. It’s clear that Arizonans do not want to see their right to vote threatened, but if the GOP has their way, that’s exactly what will happen,” said Abigail Jackson, federal communications coordinator for Progress Arizona and an organizer of the Data for Progress poll.
“Democrats right now are uniquely positioned to enact commonsense democracy reform and shield voters from these targeted attacks with the popular For the People Act. This bill is bipartisan where it matters—among 67 percent of Arizona voters—and it can pass the Senate, but not without Sinema’s support for the elimination of the filibuster.”
The poll, which surveyed 662 participants, was conducted from February 19 to 22, and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.