Senator Cotton has recently been positioning himself as a major leader in the Senate for sensible policies of immigration control and reduction, particularly with his submission of legislation with Senator Perdue of the RAISE Act — Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment. The top points include cutting legal immigration by about half, eliminating the insane Diversity Visa and reducing refugees to 50,000 annually. All of the measures would benefit American workers and improve public safety.
The proportion of foreign-born workers in the American labor force was 16.9 percent in 2016, or nearly 27 million in numerical terms according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(Note: Imprimis is a small monthly, usually with one medium-length article of a conservative nature. The content is drawn from speeches delivered to Hillsdale College hosted events — see its YouTube channel for a sampling. You can subscribe online for the free paper edition by sending your address via this link.)
In the video below, Senator Cotton’s speech starts at around 18 minutes in, following introductory comments by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn.
Immigration in the National Interest, by Senator Tom Cotton, Imprimis, October 2017
Last year, for the first time in our nation’s history, the American people elected as president someone with no high government experience—not a senator, not a congressman, not a governor, not a cabinet secretary, not a general. They did this, I believe, because they’ve lost faith in both the competence and the intentions of our governing class—of both parties! Government now takes nearly half of every dollar we earn and bosses us around in every aspect of life, yet can’t deliver basic services well. Our working class—the “forgotten man,” to use the phrase favored by Ronald Reagan and FDR—has seen its wages stagnate, while the four richest counties in America are inside the Washington Beltway. The kids of the working class are those who chiefly fight our seemingly endless wars and police our streets, only to come in for criticism too often from the very elite who sleep under the blanket of security they provide.
Donald Trump understood these things, though I should add he didn’t cause them. His victory was more effect than cause of our present discontents. The multiplying failures and arrogance of our governing class are what created the conditions for his victory.
Immigration is probably the best example of this. President Trump deviated from Republican orthodoxy on several issues, but immigration was the defining issue in which he broke from the bipartisan conventional wisdom. For years, all Democrats and many Republicans have agreed on the outline of what’s commonly called “comprehensive immigration reform,” which is Washington code for amnesty, mass immigration, and open borders in perpetuity.
This approach was embodied most recently in the so-called Gang of Eight bill in 2013. It passed the Senate, but thankfully we killed it in the House, which I consider among my chief accomplishments in Congress so far. Two members of the Gang of Eight ran for my party’s nomination for president last year. Neither won a single statewide primary. Donald Trump denounced the bill, and he won the nomination.
Likewise, Hillary Clinton campaigned not just for mass immigration, but also on a policy of no deportations of anyone, ever, who is illegally present in our country. She also accused her opponent of racism and xenophobia. Yet Donald Trump beat her by winning states that no Republican had won since the 1980s.
Clearly, immigration was an issue of signal importance in the election. That’s because immigration is more than just another issue. It touches upon fundamental questions of citizenship, community, and identity. For too long, a bipartisan, cosmopolitan elite has dismissed the people’s legitimate concerns about these things and put its own interests above the national interest.
No one captured this sensibility better than President Obama, when he famously called himself “a citizen of the world.” With that phrase, he revealed a deep misunderstanding of citizenship. After all, “citizen” and “city” share the same Greek root word: citizenship by definition means that you belong to a particular political community. Yet many of our elites share Mr. Obama’s sensibility. They believe that American citizenship—real, actual citizenship—is meaningless, ought not be foreclosed to anyone, and ought not be the basis for distinctions between citizens and foreigners. You might say they think American exceptionalism lies in not making exceptions when it comes to citizenship.