Exclusive — Sen. Tom Cotton: Time to Cut Immigration Levels, Shift Focus to Helping American Citizens First

tom cotton

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is introducing legislation on Tuesday with Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) designed to cut the level of immigration into the United States in half, with the express intent of refocusing the nation’s immigration policy onto helping American workers instead of foreigners first.

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Tuesday morning, Cotton explained that the legislation will cut the number of green cards given out every year from about a million a year down to about half a million a year—all designed to help the forgotten American worker who has gotten a “raw deal” thanks to overflowing immigration levels into the United States in recent years—causing wages to decline and job prospects to stagnate.

“Over several decades, we’ve on the one hand seen people who work on their feet and work with their hands see their wages fall—20 percent if you don’t have a high school degree, 2 percent if you have a high school degree,” Cotton told Breitbart News. “People with college and advanced degrees are doing just fine. At the same time, we’ve seen record numbers of immigration—almost all of it low-skilled or unskilled immigrants coming here. Of course, that level of immigration is going to hurt the availability of jobs for blue collar workers and put downward pressure on their wages. So I think we need to re-orient our immigration system to look out for American citizens—especially those American citizens who have gotten a raw deal in recent decades. My bill today would be a first and modest down payment by getting a handle on green cards because we give out a million a year and the vast majority of those are unrelated to unemployment and they let in low-skilled and unskilled workers. That needs to change.”

The bill’s title is “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment,” or the RAISE Act—a nice play on words since the resulting effect would be an increase in wages for American workers. Cotton explained that focusing on America first—like what President Donald Trump campaigned on—rather than foreigners first makes the issue of immigration much “clearer.”

“Most issues related to immigration become clearer when your perspective focuses not on what’s good for foreigners but what’s good for American citizens,” Cotton said. “Of course, any elected officeholder should be focused on the wellbeing of American citizens. We wish our fellow man well, and we serve our fellow citizens. This legislation would, as you say, still allow a half million into this country every single year—if you’re currently an immigrant green card holder, your spouse and your minor children will be admitted. We preserve 50,000 green cards a year for refugees which is in keeping with the historic norms under President Bush and President Obama and indeed the economic impact would probably help recent immigrants the most because those immigrants who are currently here, who are recently naturalized, are the ones most likely to face economic competition for jobs from new immigrants. So this is a pro-immigrant bill.”

The Trump White House, Cotton added, has been involved in helping him and Sen. Perdue craft the legislation and he expects Trump’s team to be intricately involved moving forward. It’s worth noting that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the next Attorney General of the United States after he’s confirmed by the Senate later this week, has led the way on these issues for years and Cotton and Perdue are stepping up to fill the void he’s leaving behind in the U.S. Senate. Several senior Sessions aides, like Stephen Miller and Rick Dearborn among many others, have gone on to work for Trump in the White House. Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, is someone who deeply understands these issues as well, as do many other senior White House aides in the new Trump administration. So White House involvement in Cotton’s and Perdue’s effort is significant in that it signals that Trump is going to keep his promises in fighting on these issues on behalf of American workers, and senators like Cotton and Perdue will be instrumental in leading the charge on Capitol Hill.

“We’ve had several communications with senior officials in the White House who have helped craft the legislation and refine it in some ways, and we expect to continue working with them,” Cotton told Breitbart News. “Again, this is a targeted bill—it simply looks at non-employment based green cards. That’s a simple, modest down payment on refocusing our immigration system towards where it should be which is the interests of American citizens. I hope that we can get bipartisan support for this bill because some Democrats have shown the same concerns but I don’t have a plan to introduce some giant comprehensive immigration reform bill and try to do everything at once. I’m certainly willing to work with the White House to the extent they need legal authorities to implement their various security and enforcement measures to move my legislation as part of a broader package. That includes those security and enforcement measures, but we do expect to have support from the executive branch on this bill.”

Cotton added that he’s had “preliminary discussions” with some Democrats on Capitol Hill in an effort to seek bipartisan support for this legislation, a positive development for those who want to protect American workers regardless of political ideology. Democrats have expressed concerns on immigration’s impact on American workers over the years, but it remains to be seen if any will step forward and help Cotton and Perdue lead on the issue.

“As you might imagine, most Democrats are focused on obstructing the president’s cabinet right now,” Cotton said. “This legislation doesn’t focus at all on temporary work visas like H1B, H2A, H2B—I may do that in the future—but many Democrats in the Senate acknowledge the notorious levels of fraud and abuses in those programs and the bad consequences they’ve had for blue collar workers in America. Because my legislation is designed to serve the very economic interests of those very blue collar workers while at the same time being humane to the families of recent immigrants and refugees, we hope that we can get bipartisan support.”

The bill from Cotton and Perdue, according to a one-page summary Cotton’s office provided to Breitbart News, would also eliminate the outdated diversity visa lottery program.

“The diversity lottery serves no discernible humanitarian or economic interest,” Cotton explained to Breitbart News. “It is a policy that has far outlived its usefulness and it really doesn’t even serve diversity since Europe is one of the primary uses of it. Even in past efforts at amnesty-first comprehensive immigration reform like we saw in 2013 and 2007, most people agree we should eliminate the diversity lottery. I think it’s a policy that has far outlived its usefulness if it ever had any utility and it’s time to eliminate the diversity lottery.”

Specifically, the one-pager details, the bill would reduce immigration by 41 percent in the first year and by 50 percent by the 10th year.

“According to immigration projection models based on the work of Princeton and Harvard professors, the RAISE Act would lower overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its tenth year—a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015,” Cotton’s one-pager explains.


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