Some of Arkansas’s top elected officials – all Republicans – are generally supportive of President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program in six months barring Congressional action. Meanwhile the state’s Democrats are offering a full rebuke and condemning attempts to use DACA beneficiaries as a political football for broader immigration policy changes.
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton says he wants to offer protection to the 800,000 undocumented people who entered the country as children, of which about 10,000 call Arkansas home, but only in exchange for the passage of his RAISE bill. Cotton has been pushing to cut legal immigration in half; to prioritize entry to the U.S. based on workforce skills; and to limit the use of family ties for immigration.
Cotton spoke on the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio show on Tuesday.
“[Trump] has said repeatedly that he wants to “take care” of the DACA recipients. I have no objection to that. But we have to recognize there are going to be two negative consequences of that action. One, we create a new opportunity for citizenship through chain migration for their parents, the very people who violated the law by bringing them here as children in the first place. And two, we encourage other people around the world to bring their children here illegally.
So we have to do something to stop chain migration. My bill does that, and we have to do something to enhance enforcement. That’s a very simple, logically coherent legislative package. It’s not comprehensive reform. It’s not the Gang of 8 bill. It’s not trying to blow ocean. It’s trying to take the action that Democrats say they want, which is to give legal status to approximately three-quarters of a million of these people in their 20s and 30s while also mitigating the consequences of that action.”
Democratic 2nd District U.S. House hopeful Paul Spencer says Cotton’s conditional support of Dreamers is unfair and an example of turning people’s dignity and humanity into a political game.
“I think this is a dark day for decency in this country. We made a guarantee essentially with these folks when this executive order was first proffered out,” Spencer told KUAR. “Once that’s extended to someone it’s bordering on immoral, in my opinion, to retract that. To view them as a bargaining chip, to use them as pawns for government as usual in Washington is repulsive to me.”
Spencer is delivering a letter to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie’s Rutledge’s office this afternoon calling on her to protect those in Arkansas protected by DACA. Rutledge’s office released a statement of its own today. In a statement she called out the administration of President Barack Obama for exceeding its legal authority.
“I commend President Trump for rescinding the DACA program created by President Obama,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While we are a compassionate country, the United States is a country of laws and President Trump recognized that President Obama’s DACA program went far beyond the executive branch’s legal authority. Congress has always been the proper place for this debate, and I am pleased that the President is granting Congress an additional six months to legislatively address this issue.”
Rutledge had entered the state of Arkansas in a lawsuit related to DACA in 2014 and represented the state of Arkansas in a letter signed this June by nine other states, asking the Trump administration to make a decision on DACA before September 5th. The group promised to “voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit if the order was given to rescind DACA.”
Fellow Republican, U.S. Senator John Boozman, also weighed in with a brief statement. He, like most of the state's Congressional delegation, panned former President Obama while refraining from explaining his own belief about what should happen to those protected by DACA.
“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.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement:
President Trump’s decision to rescind President Obama’s DACA executive order is a recognition of the constitutional limits of executive power. The issue is squarely back in the hands of Congress, and reform of our immigration laws is long overdue. I support the decision to institute a six-month delay to allow Congress time to develop a modern, workable solution on immigration that should include both a secure border and broader reforms. Our hearts go out to the children affected; their unique stories show they have a lot to add to the future of America. Congress should act quickly on this matter and hold hearings on reform legislation.
Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair, State Rep. Michael John Gray, said the decision is as “impractical as it is coldhearted.”
"I am severely disappointed in this administration's decision to end DACA. And what is even more disappointing is that our own Attorney General Leslie Rutledge helped him do it. 800,000 young people - 10,000 in Arkansas - who grew up here and have only known the United States as home are now at risk of deportation. It's impractical as it is coldhearted.
"Our Republican leaders need to stop rubber stamping a federal agenda that hurts the interests of our state. It's time Governor Hutchinson stepped up to lead for Arkansas - not fall in line behind President Trump. We must call on Governor Hutchinson as well as our representatives in Congress - Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. French Hill, Rep. Steve Womack, Rep. Bruce Westerman - to do their jobs and get to work on comprehensive immigration reform that protects these young people. We know the bipartisan support this issue enjoys; it should be simple. We'll see if Republicans can put down their political games for a minute and come together on this important issue."
Rep. French Hill issued a statement.
“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.”
As did Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-4th District).
“No matter how compassionate its intent, President Obama’s creation of DACA was a clear violation of our separation of powers,” Westerman said. “As Attorney General Sessions said today, the Justice Department could not make a clear and compelling defense for an executive action that was outside the Constitutional authority granted to the President. Congress writes our nation’s laws and President Trump has tasked us with addressing this issue in coming months as he winds down the DACA program. It is my hope that we construct a fair and just legislative solution to this issue that affects many aspects of our society and many people who live here.”