Cotton Gets to the Right of the Trump Administration on Immigration

This angry man is down on guest workers. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock

It’s not easy to get to the right of the Trump administration on immigration issues, given the president’s iron conviction that a hard-core position on
the border and everything related to it is crucial to his reelection and the key to the hearts of MAGA people in particular. Sure, you can go all Steve King and attack Dreamers — instead of taking them hostage as Trump has done. But short of that, most immigration ultras have been in lockstep with POTUS.

Not anymore: Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, usually a staunch Trump ally on pretty much everything, is angry at an administration decision to use its discretion to extend some additional visas for temporary nonagricultural “guest workers” for the third straight year. The Washington Examiner explains:

The Trump administration announced Monday it will make 30,000 additional visas available for temporary nonagricultural workers available in 2019 through the H-2B visa program.

Cotton, an Arkansas Republican senator, called the announcement “bad news for hardworking Americans” because it would take away jobs for younger people.

The administration argues that the statutory cap of 66,000 on H-2B visas — a quota that is quickly filled each year — should be set at a higher level by Congress if and when it gets around to “fixing” immigration policy generally. But for the time being, the Department of Homeland Security is quietly (no formal announcement was made of the decision) satisfying the high employer demand for these visas through its own powers.

This is sweet relief for some Republican members of Congress:

“Considering the low unemployment rate, the importance of the program to the local economy in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, and the constant oversubscription to the program, I support the Department of Homeland Security’s decision,” said Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md. He called the workers “a crucial resource for the seafood industry, the tourism industry, and other seasonal employers” in his district and across the country.

Cotton, who with Georgia senator David Perdue has sponsored Trump-endorsed legislation designed to significantly reduce legal immigration, ain’t buying it:

That it was the same “new flood” the administration allowed in 2017 and 2018 doesn’t seem to cut much ice with the stern Arkansan.

He has a point, though: If the president’s going to depict himself as America’s protector from every foreign scourge, most emphatically people of color from points south, he shouldn’t go soft on guest workers, as the Washington Post points out:

The H-2B visa allows foreign workers to come to the United States legally and work for several months at companies such as landscapers, amusement parks, or hotels. About 80 percent of these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America last year, government data shows.

Trump, of course, might have some sympathy for H-2B consumers, based on this report from 2018:

A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest.

This is the sort of thing that probably enrages Cotton and other Trump allies who see the president’s convictions collide with his business interests — and quickly surrender.

Cotton Gets to Right of Trump on Immigration