By Alexander Bolton
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Senate Republicans are “anxious” to act on an immigration reform proposal from President Trump, something that was not on the GOP agenda just a few weeks ago.
Trump surprised lawmakers Tuesday evening during his first address to a joint session of Congress by calling for action on broad immigration reform measure with bipartisan support.
Trump made similar remarks during a private session with television news anchors the afternoon before his speech to Congress.
When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer whether he and other Senate Republicans are “ready for comprehensive immigration reform right now,” McConnell said, “yeah, we’re anxious to see what the president wants to do on immigration.”
“We know we need stronger border. We know we need a legal immigration plan that actually works. Yeah, we’re very much open to an immigration proposal from the administration, anxious to take a look at what the president would recommend,” he said.
When asked if Senate Republicans would be open to a reform measure that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who are in the United States, McConnell said, “we’re certainly open to see what the president recommends.”
“We’re certainly in agreement that there are a lot of things that need to be changed by the way that we currently handle legal immigration as well as the serious illegal immigration problem,” he added.
Trump on Tuesday evening announced that he has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create a new office to help victims of crimes caused by illegal immigrants and that construction of a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border “will soon begin.”
Trump said he believes “real and positive immigration reform is possible” as long as lawmakers focus on the goals of improving jobs and wages for American citizens, strengthening border security and enforcing immigration laws by prosecuting violators.
He said the nation’s immigration laws should place more priority on bringing in skilled workers instead of what he called “This current system of lower-skilled immigration.”
He argued the country should follow a “basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.”
Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who discussed immigration reform with Trump at a recent White House meeting, said he was surprised the topic came up in Tuesday’s speech.
“Do you think you were going to hear anything on immigration tonight?” he asked a reporter.
“At least we have conversation now. I think that’s what we have to do,” Manchin added.