Tom Cotton: GOP Must Rebuild Economy for Working Class Americans with Less Immigration, More Labor Protections

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) says the Republican Party must be the party of less immigration and more labor protections, guided by the economic interests of working- and middle-class Americans.

During a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Cotton detailed the future of the Republican Party, which he said must keep the mantra “America First” at its core across all issues facing American citizens.

“Our economic policies should enrich the lives of Americans in this generation and the next,” Cotton said.

Most significantly, Cotton called on Republicans to reject globalism in all its forms in favor of an ideology that seeks to protect Americans’ livelihoods, jobs, wages, and quality of life.

“We must rebuild an economy that works for all citizens, especially the forgotten men and women left behind by decades of open borders, unfettered trade, and globalization,” Cotton said:

That starts with a basic truth rejected by Democrats and, unfortunately, too many Republicans: we are a nation with an economy, not an economy with a nation. We are a people with principles, not a set of principles with a people. [Emphasis added]

It’s often said America is an idea and it is, but it is far more. America is a real, particular nation, with real borders and real, flesh-and-blood people who share a language, a history, and a culture. [Emphasis added]

Such an economy, Cotton said, begins with the GOP fully backing a reduction to overall legal immigration to the United States. At current rates, the United States rewards 1.2 million legal immigrants with green cards annually in addition to 1.5 million foreign nationals who are given temporary visas to take American jobs.

Legal immigration levels have driven the United States population to a record 331.9 million, including the largest foreign-born population in the nation’s history, at 46.6 million. The policy artificially expands the nation’s labor market, forcing working- and middle-class Americans to compete for jobs against foreign nationals who often work for less pay.

“There is no right of free movement of a foreign people or foreign products into our nation … our immigration and trade policies should protect and serve the interests of the American people,” Cotton said:

For too long, cheap foreign labor, legal and illegal, has flooded our economy, driving down wages and driving many Americans out of their jobs. This has greatly enriched corporations, especially in the tech industry, at the expense of American workers and their families. [Emphasis added]

To boost wages and build an economy that is tilted toward the interests of working- and middle-class Americans, rather than the profit margins of big business, legal immigration ought to be greatly reduced, Cotton said.

“The level of immigration — legal and illegal — has been too high for too long,” Cotton said. “And too many immigrants come here without needed skills or any means of support. They’re admitted instead by the random chance of geographic proximity or family connections.

“We must reform our legal immigration system by ending chain migration, which allows a single migrant to bring in extended family members, who in turn do the same.” Cotton continued:

When so many impressive and highly skilled foreigners yearn to immigrate, it’s both unfair and unwise to admit new immigrants solely because of ties of blood. We should allow immigrants to bring their spouses and minor children, but that’s where the chain should end. We should replace chain migration with a skills-based system that selects immigrants with valuable skills, English-language ability, and the like. [Emphasis added]

The process known as “chain migration” allows newly naturalized citizens to bring an unlimited number of foreign relatives to America on green cards. Every two naturalized citizens bring, on average, about seven foreign relatives to the United States, with seven in ten new green card-holders arriving as chain migrants.

From 2005 to 2016, the U.S. imported about 9.3 million chain migrants.

Republican voters, a recent Gallup poll revealed, overwhelmingly want to cut legal immigration levels. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents said immigration should be reduced, as well as 32 percent of swing voters.

Further putting pressure on American jobs and wages, Cotton said, is illegal immigration. The goal of Republicans, he continued, should include building a wall along the United States-Mexico border as well as imposing harsh fines on employers hiring illegal aliens.

“I know that globalist CEOs who complain about American workers will protest [mandatory E-Verify], but here’s my answer: invest more in American workers, pay them more, and treat them better,” Cotton said. “The days of importing their replacements must come to an end.”

And we cannot tolerate Democratic demands for amnesty in return for a secure border, a tougher asylum system, and E-Verify. We can’t solve one crisis by laying the foundations for the next. We must learn from President Reagan’s greatest mistake: we must never agree to any form of amnesty in return for mere promises of enforcement. [Emphasis added]

In tandem with a reduction to overall immigration, Cotton said the U.S. must reduce its economic reliance on foreign countries like China.

“Free trade isn’t free unless it flows both ways,” Cotton said. “China isn’t engaged in free trade, not even close, and therefore it’s not entitled to preferential market access in America.”

In 1985, before China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States trade deficit with China totaled $6 billion. In 2021, the United States trade deficit with China hit more than $355 billion. The total United States trade deficit in 2021 came in at a record $859 billion.

The nation’s booming trade deficits have coincided with the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, as well as jobs in supporting industries. From 2001 t0 2018, for instance, the United States-China trade deficit eliminated 3.7 million American jobs.

Permanent 25 percent tariffs on all Chinese imports to the United States market would create about one million American jobs in five years, a study has shown.

“Despite all the recent tough talk, too many in Washington are still championing trade with China,” Cotton said. He continued:

Just last year, at the last minute, leaders of both parties dumped a massive, several-hundred-page amendment into an allegedly anti-China bill in the Senate. This amendment slashed tariff rates on hundreds of Chinese-made products. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the amendment. I was one of only four Senators to vote no. Such trade concessions to the Chinese Communist Party should never happen again. [Emphasis added]

For too long, our leaders have adopted short-term and shortsighted economic policies, selling off the inheritance of our ancestors for short-lived profit. We’ve been governed from quarter to quarter — as if America is a corporation, not a nation. This era must come to an end. [Emphasis added]

Indeed, a broad coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate routinely band together to lobby on behalf of corporate special interests with the goal of protecting United States free trade with China, despite its economic costs to American communities.

In January, for instance, a group of GOP and Democrat lawmakers urged Biden to cut United States tariffs on China. Many of the lawmakers are the beneficiaries of donations from the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which helped draft the letter.

Republican voters hugely back decoupling from China and reshoring manufacturing, even if it drives up costs for consumers. A Chicago Council Survey in December 2021 found that 83 percent of GOP voters want to increase United States tariffs on China. In addition, 77 percent of Republicans said they want the United States to drastically reduce its trade with China.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at Follow him on Twitter here


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