The sheer number of illegal immigrants streaming across the southern border may end up dooming any hope the group had of quickly gaining legal status in the United States.
The raging border crisis has made the already contentious immigration debate even more politically dangerous for senators on either side of the aisle, leaving in limbo a pair of Senate immigration reform bills that had been under discussion, according to The Hill.
"I'm reaching out on the Republican side," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "Many of them have said they are focused on the southern border. And I think that has to be part of the conversation."
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the legislation, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants, was now a "non-starter."
"There’s no pathway for anything right now," Graham said.
Graham and some of his current Republican colleagues, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, previously supported a pathway to citizenship as part of a bipartisan immigration bill that nearly passed in 2013. But, like Graham, Rubio says the situation is different this time.
"The world has changed dramatically ... Eight years is a long time, and a lot has changed," Rubio said. "Our country’s changed. The world has changed. And there’s a reality that needs to be taken into account when drafting."
Even Durbin admitted the current citizenship bill stands almost no chance of passing the Senate.
"I don’t see a means of reaching that. [But] I want it," he said.
Sen. Chis Murphy, D-Conn., said his "worry is that [Republicans] just see immigration as a political wedge issue, but there still remains the same opportunity that there was 7 years ago to get 70 votes for a comprehensive bill."
Graham noted the situation on the border has made it "much harder" to progress on legislation to help the so-called "Dreamers," illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and who would be protected from deportation by the proposed DREAM Act.
"I think it's gonna be really hard to get a bipartisan bill put together on anything that has a legalization component until you stop the flow," Graham said.
Durbin questioned if there was enough bipartisan support for a DREAM Act bill or other legislation aimed at protections for agriculture workers.
"[I'll] have to sit down with my colleagues and just see if there's any bipartisan consensus from moving that bill with those two as the starting points," he said. "We need Republican votes."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said his "strongest desire" was to get a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate, though he didn’t throw his full support behind the bill that's been promoted by President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat.
"I think the president's bill is great ... So we're going to try to do everything we can for as bold an immigration bill as we can get, plain and simple," Schumer said. "We'll see where our Republican colleagues are."
Many of those colleagues are adamant about fortifying the border before anything else is considered. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., recently signed on to a letter with several other GOP senators who questioned the legality of the Biden administration’s decision to end construction on the border wall started under former President Donald Trump.
"God knows the Biden administration needs the help," Kennedy said. "I mean, we've got thousands of people pouring across the border every single day. You know, this is not complicated, what's happening at the border. People respond to incentives."
Durbin said Senate Republicans ultimately may not compromise on any reform bill, even if Biden manages to restore a semblance of order to the border.
"Does that mean the Republicans will come forward for immigration reform?" Durbin said. "I'm not sure."
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