McConnell signals any immigration deal has to address border
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled on Tuesday that Republicans were unlikely to support a stand-alone bill for “Dreamers”— immigrants brought into the country as children — without addressing a surge along the border.
“Well, all I can tell you is that everybody is sympathetic with the DACA issue,” McConnell said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created under the Obama administration.
“I can’t imagine that we would take up an immigration-related bill, no matter how worthy it might be … without insistence on our part that we address the obvious crisis at the border,” McConnell added.
Republicans believe the border is a weak spot for President Biden, whom they’ve struggled to define almost 100 days into the administration.
Biden has been grappling with an influx of migrants at the southern border, many of them unaccompanied children or teenagers. Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 170,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in the month of March, the highest number in at least 15 years.
McConnell’s comments come as a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is holding talks about trying to find an agreement for Dreamers and agricultural workers — two groups House Democrats passed legislation addressing earlier this year.
Durbin told reporters late last week that he thought any agreement would need a border security component in order to pick up the 10 GOP senators needed to defeat a filibuster.
“I think we’ve got to have a credible southern border effort to make this work,” he said.
Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who are a part of Durbin’s bipartisan talks, unveiled legislation late last week in response to the border surge.
The bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, would establish regional processing centers, prioritize the scheduling of immigrant cases during a surge, create a pilot program to try to establish a “fairer and more efficient” way to decide asylum cases, and focus on protections for unaccompanied migrant children.
It would also increase staff for migrant surges, including 150 immigration judges and 300 asylum officers.
Sinema and Cornyn are expected to meet with Durbin this week and said they would support passing their bill as part of a larger package or as stand-alone legislation.