WATCH: Padilla on MSNBC: Immigration Reform is Essential Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Ali Velshi on MSNBC to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure deal and his efforts to include immigration reform as part of a follow-up reconciliation package:

WATCH: Padilla on MSNBC discussing infrastructure negotiation

Key Excerpts:

ON THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE AGREEMENT

Padilla: Look, all the more reason why it needs to be followed up with this reconciliationpackage…The second of the two parts that does go much bigger, that does go much bolder and is more comprehensive in its approach to investing in our nation’s infrastructure.

President Biden has been clear about that. So has Leader Schumer, so has Speaker Pelosi and the vast majority of the American people understand that we need to invest more in infrastructure, not less. So, we’re going to continue to go down these two tracks it should come as no surprise to anybody.

ON IMMIGRATION AS ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Padilla: My Republican colleagues who were part of these discussions on immigration reform, so many of them were willing to share privately how necessary immigrants are – whether it’s in agriculture, whether it’s in meat-processing, whether it’s in the hospitality industry or others – but can’t bring themselves to say yes to a responsible, thoughtful comprehensive package on immigration reform.

So, this reconciliation package or process created an opportunity, you better believe we’re going to jump at it.

Read the full interview transcript below:

Velshi: For more on this I’m joined by Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California. He’s a member of several Senate committees including Judiciary, Homeland Security and Environment and Public Works. And before becoming a Senator in January of this year, he served as California’s Secretary of State which is uniquely important as we deal with these voting issues in this country. Senator, good to see you thank you for joining us this morning.

Padilla: Good morning, Ali. Good to be back with you.

Velshi: Let’s talk about this deal. This infrastructure deal. I’ve spoken to a couple of Democrats this morning who say ‘too much of a compromise, why are we even compromising on these things given that they’re watered down and then Republicans take credit for doing it? Two years from now no one is going to remember that it was a bipartisan deal.’ Where do you stand on this?

Padilla: Look, all the more reason why it needs to be followed up with this reconciliation package. Right? The second of the two parts that does go much bigger, that does go much bolder and is more comprehensive in its approach to investing in our nation’s infrastructure.

You know, President Biden has been clear about that. So has Leader Schumer, so has Speaker Pelosi and the vast majority of the American people understand that we need to invest more in infrastructure, not less. So, we’re going to continue to go down these two tracks it should come as no surprise to anybody.

Velshi: So, your view is that we can do both of these things, right? We can get this infrastructure bill that Republicans want, which is more of what we traditionally think of as infrastructure, building roads, things like that. And that the other matters that are of concern to Democrats and progressive Democrats and Americans according to polling can be done separately?

Padilla: Absolutely. And I think that was signaled a long time ago, even the Senate Parliamentarian gave the green light for using the reconciliation process. So look, for all of the people who say ‘why can’t Congress work on a bipartisan basis?’ We’re happy to! Frankly, it’s Republicans who haven’t really reciprocated very much, particularly this year.

But if they’re willing to say yes to some aspects of this infrastructure package, that’s fine, but we’re not going to settle for only what Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are going to agree to. We know that the needs in infrastructure are much bigger. Not just in transportation by the way, in water systems, in the electrical grid, broadband deployment. And yes – in the care economy. Really tough for people to get back to work if you don’t have somebody to take care of your kids when they’re not in school. So that’s just sort of a bottom-line, simple explanation that way to many families can obviously appreciate.

And frankly there’s another element that I would love to see and am working to include in the reconciliation package – immigration reform. We’ve seen during the pandemic how essential workers are critical to the economy with more than five million undocumented immigrants working as government-recognized essential workers. They were essential long before the pandemic, they’ve been essential during the pandemic, and it’s time that we treat them as such.

Velshi: But, you know, this is the thing I’ve always been confused about in the United States, not coming from the United States. I got to America and realized that immigration is this overwhelming preoccupation with the southwestern border. It’s not actually immigration policy, it’s southwestern border security policy. Which is not unimportant at all, but what you’ve lost is the idea to say ‘hey, this is America, we have a low replacement, we have a negative replacement rate for workers, we constantly need to be on the lookout for more workers across this country at every skill level.’ But we’ve lost sight of that.

Padilla: Yeah, and I think there’s two different things. Number one: a recognition that millions and millions undocumented immigrants that have been living in the United States for some time now. Adults, on average, have been here 18 years, working, paying taxes, contributing to the economy. Very different group of people than, you know, a young family or an unaccompanied minor that might have reached the southern border last month seeking asylum. That too needs to be addressed, it’s not unimportant, but let’s not conflate the two.

And you know, to my Republican colleagues who were part of these discussions on immigration reform, so many of them were willing to share privately how necessary immigrants are – whether it’s in agriculture, whether it’s in meat-processing, whether it’s in the hospitality industry or others – but can’t bring themselves to say yes to a responsible, thoughtful comprehensive package on immigration reform. So, this reconciliation package or process created an opportunity, you better believe we’re going to jump at it.

Velshi: Senator, I’m going to have to call you back to have a conversation on a bill you and Senator Stabenow put forward on lead-free drinking water. It’s a $45 billion plan to replace every lead service line in this country. You know, I’m in south Florida dealing with this building collapse and I think we need to quite seriously, as Americans, take note of the fact that there’s stuff that needs to be fixed in order for us to live in the future. So I invite you back and I’d like to have a conversation about lead pipes and that sort of infrastructure across this country. Senator Alex Padilla is the Senator from California.

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