Understanding Mitch McConnell and Immigration Reform

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Next year, McConnell will ascend to the role of Senate Majority Leader. How will that affect efforts to see an immigration reform bill be introduced in the Senate?
Next year, McConnell will ascend to the role of Senate Majority Leader. How will that affect efforts to see an immigration reform bill be introduced in the Senate?

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky takes over the reins of the Senate next month. He will soon be able to set the agenda for that body for the next two years. On the eve of his ascent to the position of Senate Majority Leader, it is time to take a look at McConnell’s immigration record.

Kentucky’s voters have very little direct interest in immigration. The state is only 3 percent Latino and less than 1 percent Asian. Eighty-six percent are white. Only 3 percent of Kentuckians are immigrants. There is essentially no pro-immigration reform constituency in Kentucky.

Although McConnell’s own wife, Elaine Chao, is an immigrant who came to the United States as a girl, and while he supported immigration reform in theory when former president George W. Bush proposed it in 2006, his voting record and statements over the last eight years indicate a lack of sympathy for reform.

In 2006, for example, McConnell supported building a fence along the Mexican border to keep undocumented immigrants out. The following year he voted to bar the Federal government from translating most documents into languages other than English. The same year he voted against the so-called “Grand Compromise” immigration reform that Senator John McCain helped midwife. Last year he decided to vote against the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate.

McConnell has never put forward an immigration reform proposal of his own. In 2013, when reform was central to the Senate’s agenda, the Kentuckian was asked on Meet the Press what he would do about the “11 to 12 million” undocumented immigrants in the country. His response was;

Well, you know, I think the stickiest issue actually is border security. The question is can we actually get the border secure and not have this happen again? That’s the stickiest issue. We need to seriously beef up the border security part. I think that’s the key to getting a final outcome.

Essentially he dodged the issue.


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