Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, a longtime Donald Trump supporter and one of the few Republicans in Congress who really “get it” when it comes to immigration, has a new op-ed in the New York Times that’s worth checking out. In it, Sen. Cotton implores the incoming president and his fellow Republicans to fix the U.S. immigration system in compliance with the will of the people.
But while Cotton is on the right page when it comes to illegal immigration, he believes that America’s immigration problems go a lot further than the porous Mexican border. In his NY Times piece, Cotton urged the Trump administration to take a hard look at legal immigration rates as well.
“President-elect Trump now has a clear mandate not only to stop illegal immigration, but also to finally cut the generation-long influx of low-skilled immigrants that undermines American workers,” writes Cotton. “Yet many powerful industries benefit from such immigration. They’re arguing that immigration controls are creating a low-skilled labor shortage.”
Cotton doesn’t disagree with the assertions of these industries; indeed, he says that’s pretty much the point of what he’s talking about. It is precisely because these industries are able to benefit from low-skilled immigration labor that they do not provide the wages and opportunities that might interest American workers.
“Higher wages, better benefits and more security for American workers are features, not bugs, of sound immigration reform,” he writes. “For too long, our immigration policy has skewed toward the interests of the wealthy and powerful: Employers get cheaper labor, and professionals get cheaper personal services like housekeeping. We now need an immigration policy that focuses less on the most powerful and more on everyone else.”
Indeed, this is the flipside of the coin. Trump’s efforts to keep companies from moving their factories overseas are admirable and they can make a real difference. But it’s just as important to make sure these companies aren’t freezing out American workers by relying so heavily on immigrants – legal and illegal – who are willing to accept much smaller wages. In many cases, these companies are not just benefiting from the smaller wages; they are being given subsidies by the federal government at the same time. Far from being discouraged from hiring foreign workers, they are actively being rewarded for it.
This needs to stop. If Trump is to truly make good on his promise to put “America first,” he should start by giving American workers an even playing field. Bring in immigrants who can bring their unique talents and gifts to high-skilled positions and leave labor jobs open to the millions of Americans who need them. This will have an extraordinary effect on the economy, improve national morale, and cement Trump as one of the most courageous presidents we’ve ever had.