Perdue on his immigration bill: ‘Everything is on the table.’

President Donald Trump announces his support for the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act with U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, left, and David Perdue, R-Ga., right, in the White House. Zach Gibson – Pool/Getty Images

Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue was as blunt as he could be about the future of his Donald Trump-backed initiative slash legal immigration levels: “Everything is on the table.”

In a sit-down Friday with Atlanta journalists, the first-term Republican said he is still working with Trump to build support for the plan. But he said he was open to changes to the measure, as long as it doesn’t morph into a comprehensive immigration bill.

“People talk about compromise. I talk about compromise. Well, compromise comes before negotiation,” he said. “You’ve got to be willing to give up something for what you want to get. If we end up with the Democrats getting 80 percent satisfied solution, and we end up with 80 percent satisfactory result, we ought to get this done. That’s what this ought to be – an exercise of us getting engaged.”

Perdue’s legislation, known as the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, seeks to halve the number of immigrants legally allowed into the U.S. each year, including refugees, and freeze the number of employment-based green cards at 140,000 a year.

The RAISE Act would also prioritize would-be migrants who speak English, are well-educated and already have job offers while ending the current preference offered to the extended family of immigrants already living legally in the U.S.

Democrats have roundly criticized the measure, and several GOP lawmakers said it was a non-starter, noting that many businesses rely on immigrants. Even his Georgia colleague, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, has hedged on the proposal.

Perdue said he’s committed to taking a step-by-step approach to sell the plan, even as reports swirl that Trump’s top aides are pushing the president to include new protections for people brought into the country illegally as children – known as Dreamers – into the broader immigration bill.

“The president is not going to give up on this, by the way, and I’m not either,” said Perdue of his measure.

“We’re moving behind the scenes to try to engage in some of those conversations,” he added. “And we’ll see. Hey, never up, never in. If you don’t try – people want us to work together up there, but it takes two people to play. We’ll see if we can get people to play.”


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