U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, not yet in the U.S. Senate, is the darling of national media, with frequent appearances on TV and in print for this thoughts on policy, here on Meet the Press with remarks on how immigration — and protecting the U.S.-Mexican border — is a top priority for him and the rest of the Republican Party.
He didn’t just roll out talking points, however. Host Chuck Todd suggested Cotton had been guilty of fear-mongering with ads depicting illegal immigrants from the south as potential MIddle Eastern terrorists infiltrators. Cotton wouldn’t back off.
Cotton shot back, “The Islamic State is cutting the head off of Americans here. That’s something we should be fearful of and we should take a stance against whether in Iraq and Syria or securing our southern border.”
Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.
Evidence of this so far is non-existent.
The Cotton performance is part of the national strategy. I just read about how the Tea Party, now the engine of the Republican Party, had made immigration its top issue over reducing government and other familiar themes. Cotton has been solidly aligned from the first with the most extreme end of Republican Party politics. The rest of the party has moved in his direction.
President Obama’s executive order to delay deportation of the millions of immigrants working here without documents has blown fire into the movement. But there are also facts to consider when Cotton utters the evergreen talking point about “securing” the Mexican border.
The Center for American Progress and other sources round up some relevant points:
* The percentage of first-generation immigrants in America is lower than its peak percentage, which occurred in 1890.
* The undocumented population is below its 2007 peak.
* The percentage of undocumented Mexicans has been declining.
* Undocumented immigrants are a big part of the labor force and an economic boon.
* Asian immigration growth is larger than Latino immigration growth. Good luck with a wall along the coast of California.
* Improved conditions in America — and stiffer enforcement in the U.S. — are producing a near-negative growth in Mexican immigrants, with many returning to their home country.
* The cost of mass deportation would be enormous in raw dollars and almost uncountable in economic impact of lost workers and spending power.
* The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill that Cotton wouldn’t support. House Republicans never brought an immigration bill to the floor.
* Arrests have dropped sharply at the Mexican border because of stronger security and fewer people seeking to cross.
Anti-immigrant sentiment remains a powerful message for many voters and perennially popular for Republicans. The GOP is now in a position to do something about it. Is it really going to round up 200,000 busloads of people to ship to their homelands?