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Cotton Calls Democrats’ Bluff on Immigration on Senate Floor

December 5, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt Tabler (202) 224-2353

I want to associate myself with much of what my Republican colleagues have said about the immigration bill we're working on. Or perhaps I should say, to be more accurate, the immigration bill we should be working on. Because the Democrats at this point simply will not take yes for an answer. We're offering a package that they should support and in return they're threatening to shut down the government.

So let me just dispense off the top with their argument, such as it is, about the so-called DACA recipients. No one is eager to deport 690,000 illegal immigrants who are here mostly through no fault of their own. They were left in legal limbo by President Obama, and everyone wants to find a good, durable, long-term solution. But if we're going to give legal status to these illegal immigrants in their 20s and their 30s, we have to recognize there are going to be negative side effects. First, you're going to encourage parents from around the world who live in poverty and oppression and war to illegally immigrate to our country with small children. What could be more dangerous and even immoral than that?

And second, you're going to create a whole new category of Americans who could get legal status for their extended family to include the very parents who brought them here in violation of our laws. We often hear that children ought not pay for the crimes of their parents. That may be so, but surely parents can pay for the crimes of the parents. They are the ones who created the situation in the first place. Now, I offered legislation with Senator Perdue earlier this year called the RAISE Act. It had many features in it to replace unskilled and low-skilled immigration with high-skilled immigration, to limit chain migration, to reform our refugee program, and eliminate our diversity lottery.

This Congress needs to take up our legislation and pass it. But today I want to focus on chain migration in particular. Because chain migration is one of the biggest categories of immigration that brings unskilled and low-skilled workers to this country to compete for jobs and drive down wages of working Americans. Did you know that once you have legal status in this country, once you have a green card and become a citizen, you can bring to this country not only your spouse and your unmarried minor children but your adult children and their spouses and their children and your adult brother and your adult sister and your parents and their siblings and it goes on and on and on. That's why it's called chain migration.

Our legislation today would put a halt to chain migration. It's a kind of down payment on long-lasting legal immigration reform in addition to things like strengthening e-verify, improving security at our border, Kate's Law named in honor of Kate Steinle, as you heard Chairman Grassley outline earlier today. We're also pairing those provisions with a bill that Democrats and Republicans should support, the BRIDGE Act. The idea of this bill is simple enough, that everyone who has a DACA card gets three-year provisional status. That gives them the certainty without giving them permanent residency or citizenship, which I think sounds pretty reasonable.

I know the Democrats agree with me, too, because earlier this year, they were calling for passage of the BRIDGE Act. And the BRIDGE Act is supported by members of both parties as Chairman Grassley outlined, including many prominent Democratic senators. Both senators from California, the senior senator from Florida, the junior senator from New York, even the minority leader and the minority whip. In fact, the minority whip called the BRIDGE Act a "bipartisan breakthrough." So if the Democrats were to oppose our legislation today, the SECURE act, the question would be why? Well, I think I know what they might say. They might say, "Oh, those terrible Republicans have added a bunch of terrible Republican ideas to this bill." But let me just ask which of these provisions are so terrible? That we secure our border? Countries have borders, and those borders have to be secure. That we stop unscrupulous employers from hiring illegal immigrants, by strengthening e-verify? When people say that E-Verify doesn't work, what they mean is E-Verify works. What they mean is they want employers to be able to hire illegal immigrants, to take jobs away from Americans and pay them submarket wages. Or what about discouraging illegal and highly dangerous border crossings? And to get back to chain migration do we really want a system in which green cards are given out by random chance? Because that is what we have, not just in the diversity lottery but through chain migration. Today, you can get a green card in this country simply because someone in your extended family happened to immigrate to this country 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, irrespective your ability to stand on your own two feet in our economy, to get a job and pay taxes and not take welfare, to assimilate into our culture.

Shouldn't we have an immigration system that focuses on the needs of America's workers and economy, not one that gives out green cards by random chance, the way we have today? Shouldn't we be focused on the jobs and the wages of American citizens? After all, they are who elected us to come here to represent their interests. I don't think this is unreasonable. And frankly I don't think the Democrats do either. They've supported the BRIDGE Act. They've supported reform of other immigration programs, temporary visas, because they worry about the impact of immigration on lower-wage, blue-collar workers. And now the Republicans have stepped up and done exactly what the Democrats have said they wanted-we have offered a real long-term solution for persons who have received a DACA work permit.

All we're asking for in exchange is commonsense reforms that would prevent another situation like the one happening now in the future. So it's time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and support this bill. If you're serious about helping these DACA permit recipients, you should vote for this bill now. It's good for those DACA recipients. It's good for American workers. It's good for our communities, and it would be a good first step towards lasting pro-American, pro-worker immigration reform.