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WATCH: Sen. Tom Cotton Explains Why The GOP Immigration Bill Is The Best Path Forward

By  Frank Camp

On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) took to the Senate floor to explain to his colleagues why the GOP’s latest immigration proposal is the right way to go.

He began by noting that he and his fellow senators cannot simply pass a bill they know will fail in the House of Representatives, but one that can become a law:

We have a plan — not to pass a bill, but to pass a law. Because twice in the last 12 years, the Senate has passed a bill that hasn’t become a law because the House of Representatives couldn’t pass it and ultimately, therefore, the president couldn’t sign it. So I urge my colleagues, let’s not simply signal our virtue to our counterparts in the House or to the president by passing a bill, let’s solve this problem by passing a law.

He explained what the bill accomplishes, adding that it is indeed rather narrow:

It provides legal status, and ultimately citizenship, for people who were brought here through no fault of their own as minors before the age of accountability. It provides more money and legal authorities to secure our southern border, and help our brave immigration agents. It eliminates the useless diversity visa lottery [and] reallocates those green cards to more productive, worthwhile purposes, and it puts an end to the practice of extended family chain migration, allowing an immigrant to bring not just his or her spouse and minor children, but parents, siblings, and ultimately grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, on down the extended family tree.

Now it doesn’t solve every problem under the sun that we have with immigration. It doesn’t, for instance, include mandatory nationwide E-verify, which I would support. It doesn’t resolve the many problems we have with numerous temporary guest worker visas. But it is consistent with the president’s framework, and it solves the problem in front of us of young people who were brought here through no fault of their own — but also the side effects of giving those people legal status.

Cotton then spoke about why the border security measures included in the bill are necessary if we are to give legal status to 1.8 million DACA-eligible individuals:

I know there are a lot of half-measures floating around the Senate right now saying that we should give legal status to these 1.8 million people in return for a small pittance at the southern border, but it simply will not do. It is not responsible because if we give those people legal status, we’ll have two negative side effects.

First, we’ll create more incentives, perverse incentives, to encourage illegal immigration with minor children to this country. That is dangerous. It is immoral — not to mention unwise from our national interests. Second, if we give legal status to these 1.8 million people, we’ll create a whole new pool of legal permanent residents, and ultimately citizens, who can naturalize their extended family to include their parents — the very people who created the problem to begin with, undermining the rationale for the program to begin with. Remember, that rationale is that children ought not pay for the sins of the parents, but surely parents can pay for the sins of the parents.

Cotton continued, noting that while strict in certain areas, the bill is also generous:

So, if we do those things — provide legal status for the 1.8 million people who find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own, but control those negative side effects by securing our southern border and ending the practice of extended family chain migration, we will have a bill that can become a law. At the same time though, we’ll also grandfather in every person who’s currently in the backlog waiting to come to this country, who has applied to get a green card because they have a parent or child or sibling in this country — some of whom have been waiting up to twenty years. So no one will be cut out of that waiting line.

Furthermore, we will continue to allow American citizens to get a renewable non-worker visa for their elderly parents who live overseas. So, if you’ve immigrated to this country and you still have parents back in the home country who need your care, who need to live in a home with you or maybe live down the street in a nursing home, this will allow you to have a visa to bring them here.

That’s a generous, humane solution, but also one that handles the problem responsibly and starts to build the kind of immigration system that this country needs — a system that focuses on the skills that our economy needs, not one that’s just based on family ties or country of origin.

Sen. Cotton concluded by touting the bill’s popularity:

And for that reason, it’s immensely popular. A recent poll showed that 65% of Americans support this proposal. Two out of every three Americans support it — and they should, since after all, every part of this proposal is popular.

Most of us have seen polls that suggest fewer than 20% of Americans want to see these people have to return to a country that, in many cases, they don’t remember. At the same time, 72% want to end the practice of extended family chain migration. And securing our southern border is equally popular.

So, often times in Congress we have to make a tough choice between something that is popular and necessary, or something that’s unpopular. But in this legislation, we’re simply asking our colleagues to do the right thing, take the responsible step, which all happens to be popular with the American people as well — and it should be popular, because it is both generous and humane on the one hand, but responsible on the other hand.

It’s the only approach that will began to change our immigration system from one that treats people for where they come from and who they’re related to [into] a system that treats them for who they are. Nothing could be more American than that, and I urge my colleagues to recognize that this is the one bill that can pass the House of Representatives, earn the president’s signature, and become a law.

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  1. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
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  7. Tom Cotton
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