Biden calls for big budget bill to include immigration

FILE PHOTO: President Biden speaks about jobs and the economy from the White House in Washington
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By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden, who has called for providing a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamer immigrants, said on Thursday that a big budget bill being written by Democrats in Congress should tackle immigration.

Biden, who made the comment to reporters at the White House, said on Sunday he was uncertain whether a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers could be included in the bill, which Democrats plan to pass without Republican support.

Dreamers are immigrants brought to the United States as children who are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

His latest comments come after he and Vice President Kamala Harris met at the White House with Democratic lawmakers to discuss the DACA program.

"It went very well," Biden said of the meeting, adding he was on board with an immigration proposal being included in the budget reconciliation bill.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the meeting, said Democrats have an opportunity to push for immigration reform via the bill and the president supports the move.

"He (Biden) made it clear to us, unequivocally clear that he stands with our efforts," Durbin told reporters.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said there is a chance for the budget reconciliation bill to pass and that lawmakers must use that to do something about a "broken" immigration system. "We have to take that opportunity," she said.

The meeting follows a ruling by a federal judge in Texas earlier this month that said that the DACA program could no longer accept new applications.

Senate Democratic leaders this month told other members the budget measure would open the door to legislation on climate measures, social spending, and extension of a child tax credit.

However, it remains unclear if the Senate parliamentarian, who decides which provisions may be included in a budget package, will approve inclusion of an immigration measure.

Most bills in the U.S. Senate require support from 60 of the 100 members to be taken up for a vote. With the U.S. Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, the rule has threatened to stall Biden's agenda.

Budget reconciliation measures, however, can clear the chamber on a simple majority vote, in which case Vice President Kamala Harris could break the tie.

DACA protects recipients from deportation, grants them work authorization and access to driver's licenses, and in some cases better access to financial aid for education. It does not provide a path to citizenship.

People protected under DACA primarily are young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and countries in Central and South America who were brought to the United States as children.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)

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