Republican leaders are aligning with the party’s conservative wing when it comes to a legislative replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, insisting that deeper immigration reforms must accompany an amnesty deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday night that he wants to work with Democrats on a DACA bill, but will push for changes favored by conservative immigration reformers.

“I agree with Cotton and Perdue” on their RAISE Act, McConnell told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.

McConnell was referring to a bill sponsored earlier this year by Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that would dramatically curtail chain migration, move the U.S. to a merit-based immigration system, and do away with the diversity visa lottery. Backed by the White House, the RAISE Act has become a favorite of immigration hawks, who want Republicans to use the bill as a negotiating point in any potential DACA bill.

Conservative Republicans have previously expressed concern that party leadership would push for a standalone DACA bill or pair an amnesty bill with unspecified “border security enhancements.” But some conservative immigration reformers in the GOP are now saying that party leadership is moving in their direction on a DACA deal, particularly on the issue of exchanging amnesty for limits on chain migration.

Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies on Thursday, Perdue said he was confident the GOP was moving toward a consensus on chain migration.

“I think the mood in our caucus is that ending chain migration is a top priority,” Perdue said. “For the majority leader of the Republican caucus say that he is in favor of eliminating chain migration, I think that’s a milestone.”

On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan has been less definitive on his support for chain migration reform, but he has publicly rejected the idea of including a DACA amnesty in a must-pass spending bill due Dec. 8. Some Democrats have threatened to force a government shutdown if the budget agreement doesn’t address DACA recipients.

McConnell reiterated his support for keeping DACA separate from the spending bill Wednesday.

‘I’m in favor of doing something on the DACA front,” McConnell told Ingraham. “But I don’t think we ought to just do that. Chain migration, doing something about the diversity visa lottery, there are plenty of changes to the legal immigration system that should be added to the DACA fix that we do.”


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