Originally Published in CNN
Robert Browstein - January 26, 2021
In several key respects, Biden already is approaching the herculean task of immigration reform
with a strikingly different strategy than the past two presidents who tried to restructure the system, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama.
While both men introduced proposals to comprehensively rethink almost every aspect of immigration law, Biden's plan
stresses legalization of the undocumented, the top Democratic priority, while offering little on the key asks of business groups and Republicans: guaranteeing future flows of temporary workers and toughening border and interior enforcement.
That choice reflects another big change from the past: While Bush and Obama both engaged in extended bipartisan negotiations that ultimately failed to produce a law, congressional Democrats and immigration advocates appear unlikely to enlist in such an elongated effort again.
Congressional Democrats and immigrant advocacy groups seem content deferring initially as Biden seeks Republican support for change. But it's clear that both groups have only limited patience for that approach if Republicans don't quickly show signs of interest.
"My goal is to see if there are some legitimate players on the Republican side who want to invest a little capital and are serious," Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who's the legislation's chief Senate sponsor, told me. "If the answer to that is yes, I would take weeks with them. I am not going to take months with them."
The Democratic skepticism about pursuing lengthy negotiations with Republicans underscores the challenge Biden will face squaring his immigration goals with his promise to promote "unity"
and find more common ground across party lines. On immigration, as on most of his other priorities, his promise to work with Republicans collides with the liberal tilt of his own proposals, a Republican Party that has moved to the right even since his tenure as Obama's vice president, and a Democratic base highly dubious that meaningful cooperation is possible with that modern GOP -- and thus eager to use special legislative tools to move forward without it whenever possible.