The handpicked junior senator from California is likely to make immigration reform his signature cause, and comes out of the gate with a bill that would grant citizenship to immigrants working essential jobs.
Former California secretary of state Alex Padilla was the winner of the Gavin Newsom-Picks-a-Senator Sweepstakes, but let’s be honest. You would not recognize the guy if you passed him on the street. So, Senator Padilla faces a challenge making a name for himself, and his first bill shows his hand at how he intends to do this. The Chronicle has the news that Padilla has introduced his first Senate bill called the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would do, well, exactly what the bill’s title says.
He at least has SF Mayor London Breed on board.
Many undocumented immigrants have been on the frontlines over the past year, often at great personal risk. Thank you @SenAlexPadilla for this legislation to protect these workers and create a path to citizenship. https://t.co/C0k00snn7B— London Breed (@LondonBreed) February 26, 2021
“I think nothing speaks to the moment more than COVID response and fairness for essential workers,” Padilla said in an interview with the Chronicle. “On a parallel track, we know that immigration reform is long overdue in the United States of America and there are no states that have more at stake in immigration reform than the state of California.”
Essential workers risk their lives to keep our country running, but about 5 million live in fear of deportation. My bill with @SenAlexPadilla, @JoaquinCastrotx and @RepTedLieu provides a fair pathway to citizenship for essential workers. #ImmigrantsAreEssential pic.twitter.com/Pd0FXAu1ON— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 26, 2021
And now for the bucket of cold water. As the Chronicle assesses, “On its own, it’s virtually impossible the bill would become law.” Moreover, it’s not just Padilla’s bill, he’s a “lead sponsor,” but along with heavy-hitting Senate leftie Elizabeth Warren, and on the House side, California’s Ted Lieu and Texas’ Joaquin Castro. Warren, however, said at a Thursday press conference that she would like to see it finagled through the Senate via something we all just learned about this week called reconciliation, or a simple majority instead of filibuster-proof 60-vote supermajority.
With his first bill, Sen. Padilla is making a push to legalize millions of immigrants (many undocumented, some legally but temporarily here) amid COVID, arguing it’s only fair for essential workers.— Tal Kopan (@TalKopan) February 26, 2021
It also could be the next reconciliation battle: https://t.co/imhfEo6JvL?
But as soft-spoken as Padilla is, the Senate has granted him the choice assignment he wanted. The rookie senator was instantly named chair of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. What’s significant there is that they just changed the name of that committee — under Trump, it was called the Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration. You can see the difference in tone of the two subcommittee names.
Even if this bill never makes it to the floor for a vote, you can see Padilla’s endgame. He’s already up for reelection next year, even though he was just appointed, because he’s filling in for the remainder of what had been senator Kamala Harris’ term. And his name recognition is frankly quite low.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is coming out of exile this weekend at the Cancun — errm, Conservaive Political Action Committee meeting, where they have erected a literal golden calf statue of Trump. To the degree to which Trump can adhere to prepared remarks, he is expected to lean heavily on his racist anti-immigration grievances. And if he actually name-checks Alex Padilla, that would frankly be a golden moment to set up Padilla as the scholarly, intellectual, son-of-a-restaurant-worker-and-housecleaner humble roots foil as Trump wages his inevitable comeback effort.
Related: Feinstein’s Approval Rating Hits an All-Time Low of Just 35% [SFist]
Image: @SenAlexPadilla via Twitter