President Trump took a first step today toward cleaning up the mess that President Obama's unlawful amnesty left behind. President Trump is right that this amnesty would never have stood up in court. Yet, we now face a situation where 800,000 people, who were brought to our country as minors, face legal limbo. Dealing with this problem is a legislative task, not an executive-branch task. But we must recognize that codifying the DACA program will have two negative consequences: encouraging future illegal immigration with minors and allowing those 800,000 people to obtain legal status for their family members via chain migration, which rewards the very people who broke the law in the first place and further depresses working-class wages. Thus, we must mitigate these consequences by stopping the chain migration that hurts the working class and by strengthening the enforcement of our immigration laws. I've introduced legislation, the RAISE Act, that would limit the amount of low-skilled immigration coming into our country, and my colleagues have several proposals to strengthen enforcement. These should be the starting point of our discussions, and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to come up with a deal that protects American workers.What does this mean for the political chances of a DACA replacement? The RAISE Act, sponsored by Cotton and Sen. Sonny Perdue (R-Georgia) and endorsed by Trump, would cut legal immigration by half over the next decade. It's unclear what additional enforcement mechanisms Cotton is referring to, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that Trump wants any DACA replacement to include funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. For most congressional Democrats — maybe all — these are nonstarters. Immigrant advocates are calling for a vote on a "clean bill," meaning one focused just on the question of Dreamers and not the broader immigration system:
The issue of DACA-eligible young people is a manifestation of a broken immigration enforcement system. I have a heart for their plight. At the same time, I believe that part of the genius of America is that we are a nation of laws. The President is right; Congress has the responsibility to address this issue and now is the time to do so. With thoughtful debate, jobs can be protected, lawful immigration can be championed, and the proper relief can come for the young people who know only America as their country and who continue to work hard to achieve that American dream.UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: Arkansas's other senator, Republican John Boozman, issued the following brief statement, which is even more vague than Womack's:
The Obama administration overreached its authority when it unilaterally expanded the DACA program. I am pleased that President Trump is returning the power to Congress to restore the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. As Congress pursues immigration reform, I will push for legislative solutions to fix our broken immigration system, including the lengthy and burdensome legal immigration process.For whatever it's worth, Cotton's RAISE Act explicitly aims to make the legal immigration process more lengthy and more burdensome by winnowing the number of green cards issued each year.
Our immigration system is inflexible and outdated, but attempting to fix it through executive action was not the answer. The president’s actions mark a return of legislation authority – where it rightfully belongs - because we are a nation ‘of and by the people.’ My colleagues and I are committed to improving our broken immigration system compassionately and thoughtfully to ensure that those coming to our country can easily comply with our laws in order to pursue a bright and promising future.