As Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) kicks off his bid for U.S. Senate against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) this week, he said Friday morning that Pryor’s support for the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill is going to be a “central issue” of his campaign against him.
“I think it’s going to be a central issue in the campaign and I certainly heard a lot about it this week as I have traveled around the state,” Cotton said on a conference call organized by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) with reporters in response to a question from Breitbart News.
“I was surprised and disappointed that Mark Pryor voted for the amnesty legislation,” Cotton said. “John Boozman obviously voted against it and was one of the strongest opponents of it from the very beginning. I think Sen. Boozman reflects Arkansas views on the Senate approach. I would say it’s not just the Senate bill, it’s the Senate approach which is legalization first, enforcement later. The fundamental flaw with that approach is if enforcement comes later, enforcement is likely to never occur. It’s exactly what happened in the 1986 amnesty legislation. We got amnesty immediately, but we did not get the enforcement. It was defunded, it was ignored by the bureaucracy, it was tied up in lawsuits by hostile interest groups. What I think we need to do is have an immigration approach that focuses first on enforcement, that’s border security as well as interior enforcement for the 30-40 percent of illegal immigrants who come here legally on a visa, and employment verification, but also reforming our legal immigration system to ensure that it is focused on skills, job training, experience and the needs of our economy.”
Cotton said that an overwhelming majority of voters in his state support that position on immigration, not the position Pryor took by voting for the Senate bill.
“That’s not just what I think, that’s what Arkansans think,” he said. “Leading up to our conference with the House GOP caucus last month, I received about 1,800 contacts, phone calls, e-mails, letters. Only 12 of those were in favor of the Senate bill. We’ve received a lot more since that time as I’ve become a lot more outspoken on the matter, writing a piece in the Wall Street Journal, speaking in the media about it and also speaking at town halls or events about it. I firmly believe that most Arkansans want to secure our border, they want to enforce our immigration laws, then we respect the rule of law, and they want to welcome foreigners to this country who have the skills that we need and who are respecting our laws.”
Cotton added too that he thinks people who follow the rules and seek to legally immigrate to America for positive reasons should be rewarded. “This is also personal for me,” Cotton said. “I have an interpreter in Afghanistan who literally has bled for this country. Any time he could have illegally immigrated to our country by getting a visa and flying here and just overstaying it. He didn’t. He wants to start a life with his family, his wife and his two young daughters, in America to live the American dream. He’s doing the right thing. We should reward people like him and encourage them to come here.”
Cotton has been one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House against the Senate bill, and in favor of an enforcement-first immigration approach.