Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said Wednesday that he would be willing to work on a legislative remedy for recipients of the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as long as it involves key elements of an immigration bill he introduced in August.
Cotton, who has emerged as one of the Senate’s leading immigration hawks, applauded President Donald Trump for ending DACA and putting the onus on Congress to figure out what to do about the nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants granted relief under the program. Though he expressed sympathy for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, he warned that there would be “negative consequences” if Congress passes a standalone amnesty for DACA recipients.
Such a bill would “open up a whole new category of people who could get legal status, namely their parents who violated the law by bringing them here, and it’s going to encourage other people to bring their children here across the border in the future, which is a very dangerous thing to do,” Cotton said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”
Cotton suggested that the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, a bill he is co-sponsoring with Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, should be a component of any legislation on DACA. The RAISE bill moves the U.S. to a merit-based immigration system, slashes legal immigration levels by about half over a decade and, most importantly to Cotton, sharply limits which family members a citizen or green card holder can sponsor for immigration to the U.S.
President Donald Trump praised the measure during an introduction ceremony at the White House in August, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it could provide “enormous benefits” during his Tuesday announcement on the unwinding of DACA.
Cotton told CBS that his bill would address a likely consequence of providing DACA recipients with a path to citizenship: further immigration of the beneficiaries’ extended family members. Current immigration law allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their their parents, siblings and married adult children for immigrant visas. Under the RAISE Act, only spouses and minor children could apply for admission based on family ties. (RELATED: White House To Announce Bill To Overhaul Legal Immigration System)
“You can’t dispute just as a logical matter if we give legal status that it’s going to encourage more immigration,” Cotton said. “We should have an open, common sense discussion about that.”
Cotton is among a group of conservative Republican lawmakers opposed to passing a clean DACA amnesty bill that doesn’t include immigration enforcement or border security provisions. Pairing provisions of the RAISE Act with legalization of DACA recipients is a “different incremental approach” that might be acceptable to a broader swath of the GOP than a standalone bill, according to Cotton.
“I’m saying that we shouldn’t try to do the same thing Congress has failed to do three times in the last 11 years, which is solve every single problem we have,” he said during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We should address the problem in front of us and mitigate the consequences of that action.”
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