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Cotton Slams Reckless Immigration Proposal

February 15, 2018

Contact: Caroline Tabler (202) 224-2353

I want to speak today about the so-called Schumer amendment. Now that's not the name that some people give it, but I'll give it that name. Abraham Lincoln said if you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have, five? No, it has four. Because calling something doesn't make it that. In the same way you can call a bill bipartisan because there are some Republicans on that bill, and if the Republicans have simply acquiesced to the Democrats' position, it's a Democratic bill. Calling it bipartisan doesn't make it so. Let's just walk through a few of the weaknesses of this bill. So, first, the enforcement holiday for illegal immigration. You might call it the olly-olly-oxen-free position. Because It declares to anyone, worldwide, if you get to the United States in the next four months before, June 30, 2018, olly olly oxen free, the Department of Homeland Security will not enforce our laws against you. Don't take my word for it. Look at it right here. In fact, it was done in handwriting, last night. Last night. I suspect some of my colleagues on this bill didn't even know that this change was made. It used to be January 1, 2018, and you had to be present for at least five and a half years. That's not great, but it's better than any a prospective enforcement holiday, which says if you get to this country illegally in the next four months, we will not make you an enforcement priority. So, come on in everyone, if you get here by June 30, under this amendment, the Department of Homeland Security will not make it a priority to enforce its laws against you.

Second, let's look at the amnesty that it provides. Now, the president has been extraordinary generous in his offer to our Democratic colleagues. He didn't say legal status, for 690,000 people who are enrolled in the Obama-era DACA program. He said citizenship. He said a full opportunity for citizenship for 1.8 million people-1.8 million people who are not just enrolled in the program but would have been eligible for the program had they enrolled. This amendment would expand that to almost 3 to 4 million people by lifting the age limits, by lifting the age caps. A vast amnesty just among those younger people of a quarter of the people who are in this country illegally.

But third, it gets even worse than that. The entire rationale of the DACA program is that children ought not pay for the sins of their parents. How about the parents pay for the sins of the parents? This bill would allow the effective legalization of the very parents who created this problem in the first place. Now, the sponsors of this amendment will say no, no, we prohibit the parents from getting legal status. Let's look at how they do that. They say that no person can receive legal status if the Department of Homeland Security can show they knowingly assisted the entry of a minor in this country. Now, tell me how the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to make that showing? How are they supposed to go back 10, 15, 20, 25 years and show that this illegal immigrant knowingly brought that person into this country. It's preposterous. It's the exact reason why so many immigration bills have failed for so many years in this body. Because the Democrats write bills that they claim does one thing when in reality it does the exact opposite thing. The exact opposite thing.

Fourth, they say that it reforms chain migration or at least makes a down payment on it. Here's what it actually does. It briefly, briefly, delays a tiny, tiny class of persons from being sponsored by newly legalized immigrants. Only about 25,000 per year of the adult children of green-card holders. It takes those and applies them to other adult children, and when those immigrants become a citizen, guess what? They get to sponsor their adult children again. So, it makes, in practice, not a single change to the practice of extended-family chain migration, which is responsible for so much of the unskilled and low-skilled immigration we've had in this country over the last 40 years. It makes no changes whatsoever to the diversity lottery, not a single one, not a single one, even though every other provision under serious consideration has at least eliminated that lottery and reallocated those green cards towards other purposes, like clearing out that family-based backlog, clearing out the high-skilled backlog. Now, some people say that oh, it appropriates $25 billion, $2.5 billion a year for ten years for the border wall. It does no such thing. Again, it says one thing, does another. It gives $2.5 billion for the first year. Can't be spent on physical barriers. And then every year after that, it makes that money contingent on a report and a certification by the Department of Homeland Security that is purposefully, purposefully onerous, difficult to achieve, and, therefore, means the money likely will not be available in future years. And, of course, if a Democratic president comes into office in the ten years of this bill, we know that his Department of Homeland Security will never submit that report certification, and that money will never be spent. And finally, this amendment has no chance of becoming law. Zero chance. It shouldn't pass this chamber to begin with, but even if that were to happen, President Trump issued a veto threat just minutes ago. The House of Representatives is not going to pass this bill. They probably won't even take it up, as they didn't take it up the last time the Senate passed a terrible immigration bill.

So, my friends, this Democratic bill deserves to be roundly defeated. There is one bill that has a chance to pass the House of Representatives and get the president's signature, and that is the president's framework proposal, which again in a very generous and humane fashion gives citizenship, not just legal status, but citizenship to 1.8 million young people who were brought here or came here before the age of accountability. On the other hand, it mitigates the negative consequences of that decision, which we all know will happen. First, to control the increased incentives for illegal immigration, it provides the money and closes the loopholes necessary to secure our southern border. And second, to prevent that newly legalized class of citizens from sponsoring the very parents who created this problem in the first place and their siblings and ultimately their grandparents and their aunts and their uncles and their cousins and their nieces and their nephews, it ends the practice of extended-family chain migration and says that American citizens can always sponsor their spouses and their minor kids. But anyone else, any other adult, should stand on their own two feet if they want to immigrate to this country. That's what the president said he will sign. That is, therefore, what the House of Representatives can pass. That is the bill that should pass today, the bill that's sponsored by Chairman Grassley of the Judiciary Committee.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.