Senate Conservatives, Furious With Mitch McConnell, Revolt Against Looming Immigration Deal

A group of Republican senators says the measure at the center of the deal would create a magnet for more migrants to come.

AP/Christian Chavez
Migrants stand near the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. AP/Christian Chavez

A key bloc of conservative senators is revolting against the immigration reform deal currently being negotiated in the upper chamber. After reportedly getting into a shouting match with their more moderate colleagues, the right flank says Senator McConnell is largely to blame for the secretive, unproductive talks. 

“Our leader — Leader McConnell — is really the stage manager of this negotiation … and without consulting the conference, he took away most of our leverage by saying we would not even ask to tie Ukraine funding to securing the border,” Senator Johnson said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

Mr. Johnson describes the deal as a “Rube Goldberg solution,” meaning it is — like the Rube Goldberg cartoons made famous in The New York Sun — a random contraption of unrelated pieces being strung together without actually solving any of the problems. 

The negotiation framework — which was leaked to a conservative immigration think tank — includes work permits for migrants who cross the border, an increased number of visas available to the families of high-skilled laborers, and an increase in the number of green cards issued by 50,000 a year.

The deal would also restrict the entrance of migrants who fail to appear at a port of entry, permit the influx of up to 5,000 migrants a day into America, and provide taxpayer-funded legal representation for unaccompanied migrant children and mentally incompetent migrants. 

Senator Cruz, who also spoke at the press event on Wednesday, reportedly got into a shouting match with Senator Tillis during the Senate GOP’s weekly lunch on Tuesday. Mr. Tillis, who has been party to some of the negotiations, is supportive of the bipartisan deal that is taking shape. 

“Several points of view came out … at decibel levels a little higher than normal,” Senator Braun told the Hill of the luncheon. Senator Lee — another conservative who is opposed to the deal as it is currently being crafted — told the publication that senators are being “set up” by Mr. McConnell and his camarilla. 

Mr. Lee points out that the last major immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate in 2013 but shortly after died in the House, took months to negotiate and amend in a public setting. Now, he says, the deal is being crafted in the basement of the Senate and will be forced on senators who will have to vote within a matter of days after getting their hands on the legislative text. 

“It’s the law firm of Schumer McConnell” that is trying to expedite the deal, Mr. Lee says. “That is uncollegial to a degree I lack the capacity in the English language to describe. For them to suggest that we ought to be ready to take this thing, thank them, and then vote on it — I don’t know — within a couple of days, three days at the most … is not acceptable. Mature adults in any professional context do not treat each other this way.”

Democrats have been forced to the table on immigration reform because President Biden is desperately in need of more aid for Ukraine. Conservatives say they are willing to release more money for Ukraine but only if the number of border crossings are brought down significantly. 

Mr. Johnson and Senator Rick Scott said conservatives want to tie Ukraine aid directly to the number of border crossings on a set time period. Senators Scott and Hoeven said the best way to do that was to release money for Ukraine on a “monthly” basis, depending on the number of crossings. Mr. Johnson said he would sponsor a bill providing money for the “freedom-loving people of Ukraine” but only if it secured the border.

The New York Sun

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