Despite the rosy statement issued by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after their dinner meeting with Pres. Trump, Sen. Tom Cotton says the president has personally assured him there is no deal between the White House and top Democratic lawmakers on an amnesty for illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” the Arkansas Republican said Trump wants to ensure any agreement to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program includes protections for American workers.
“You know, I think the president has said publicly that there’s not a deal, that he wants to see a deal,” Cotton told MTP host Chuck Todd, referring to reports about a possible deal between the White House and Democratic leaders.
“In fact, he called me a couple nights ago to say there’s no deal. He wants to make sure that we protect the interest of American workers. In particular, by ending unlimited chain migration which is why we have so many unskilled workers coming into the country,” he said. According to NumbersUSA, “chain Migration refers to the endless chains of foreign nationals who are allowed to immigrate to the United States because citizens and lawful permanent residents are allowed to sponsor their non-nuclear family members.”
Many conservative Republicans and immigration hawks were baffled when Democratic leaders made their announcement last Wednesday that they and Trump had “agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly” in exchange for unspecified border security measures.
The GOP leadership is confident Trump can use DACA legalization as a bargaining chip to wrest concessions from Democrats on a host of other immigration reforms, including limits on legal migration levels and mandatory worker verification.
One such reform is the RAISE Act, a bill sponsored by Cotton and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue that would cut legal immigration levels by half over a decade, primarily through limits on family-based migration and the implementation of a points system for visas.
In the face of backlash from conservative critics, the Trump administration changed its tune on a DACA deal, asserting that a clean amnesty bill was not under consideration. White House legislative director Marc Short said Friday on MSNBC that the administration is not currently “entertaining” the prospect of a path to citizenship, contradicting Democratic leaders who insist that citizenship must be part of a deal.
Trump himself sought to reassure immigration hawks that he wouldn’t give DACA away for free, calling for an immigration bill that addressed limits on chain migration. Current immigration law allows recent immigrants to petition for extended family members to come to the U.S.
“CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” Trump tweeted Friday.
CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Cotton, who has emerged as one of the GOP’s leading immigration hawks, said he would push to include provisions of the RAISE Act in any bill Congress drafts to give amnesty to DACA recipients, adding:
If you want to give legal status to these 700,000 or so people, who are in their 20s and 30s now, that came here illegally as children, that’s a permanent and irreversible change to American law. You need to make a permanent irreversible change in return to protect American workers. The way to do that is my legislation the RAISE Act, which will stop unlimited chain migration and reorient our green card system to high-skill workers. That’s the real core of the deal.
This report, by Will Racke, was cross posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.