Tom Cotton

U.S. Senator (R-AR)

Cotton was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and to the U.S. Senate in 2014. Cotton quickly established ties with anti-immigrant groups and has become one of the most outspoken anti-immigrant voices on Capitol Hill. After working with anti-immigrant groups including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Cotton introduced the RAISE Act that would cut the current authorized immigration levels in half.

  • During his time in the House, Cotton vocally opposed S 744, the “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill, saying, “Unless the Senate, specifically Chuck Schumer and the Democrats that drafted this bill, relent on their insistence for legalization first, enforcement later, then I can’t see a way to reconcile any legislation that we might pass that would focus on enforcement.”
  • Cotton’s actions were endorsed by Iowa Rep. Steve King, a man known for his repeated demonization of immigrants. King told the National Review, “It’s so clear that he’s done the research and taken the time to understand the issue.” National Review, a conservative outlet that routinely gives a platform to anti-immigrant voices, called Cotton “a charismatic, brainy voice for Steve King’s coalition.”
  • In 2015, following the death of Kathryn Steinle, Cotton introduced an amendment targeting “sanctuary cities.” The bill would cut federal funding for cities that have chosen to limit cooperation with the federal government’s deportation efforts.
  • Senator Cotton and Senator David Perdue introduced the RAISE Act in 2017, with support from President Trump. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Julie Kirchner, and Jeff Sessions reportedly assisted in drafting the bill, which if enacted would cut legal immigration by 50%. The Anti-Defamation League called the bill “cruel, anti-family and un-American.”
  • Roy Beck, founder of the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, praised Cotton, telling Politico, “With the introduction of this bill, Sen. Cotton has made it clear that he’s stepping not necessarily into the shoes, but onto the platform where Sessions’ shoes have been. This is beyond anything that Sen. Sessions ever did.” In a press release, Cotton included a positive endorsement by NumbersUSA of another piece of legislation he introduced in March of 2019.
  • In 2018, Cotton attended FAIR’s Hold Their Feet to the Fire event. The event brings together anti-immigrant activists, radio hosts, and elected officials in an effort to flood the airwaves with anti-immigrant rhetoric. FAIR also boasted in its 2017 annual report that it held “key meetings” with Cotton and Perdue.
  • In 2019, Cotton again targeted so-called sanctuary cities, introducing a bill that would withhold federal grants from cities which allegedly prohibit their local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials. In a press release, Cotton stated, “Sanctuary cities keep criminal aliens on our streets, and we will no longer tolerate their willful defiance of our nation’s laws.”
  • In 2014, when running for Senate, Cotton claimed, “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.”
  • In an interview with The New Yorker, Cotton stated, “But if you live and work in a community where they have a large illegal-immigrant population that’s straining the public school, that’s clogging up the emergency room when you’re trying to get care, that makes it more dangerous to drive in the roads because people don’t have driver’s licenses or they don’t have insurance, or if they are bidding down the wages or even taking jobs away from you, then it doesn’t look nearly so good.”
  • In response to a 2017 New York Times piece, Cotton defended President Trump and said, “It’s not a ‘nativist view’ to say immigration policy should be crafted to benefit American citizens, not foreigners.”
  • Cotton accepted an invitation from CIS to participate in its “Immigration Newsmaker” event at the National Press Club in July of 2019. CIS was founded by white nationalist John Tanton and has a long history of disparaging immigrants, such as blaming them for the “burgeoning street gang problem in the United States.” In his opening remarks, Cotton told CIS head Mark Krikorian, “thanks for the Center for Immigration Studies for hosting this conversation, and also for all the very important work the Center does on immigration.”
  • In 2017, Cotton tweeted, “Sanctuary cities, illegal/mass immigration, & leniency for violent felons are wildly unpopular. Republicans SHOULD campaign on these issues!”
  • In February of 2019, Cotton and Sen. Boozman introduced mandatory E-Verify legislation.
  • Cotton has been vocally opposed to the DREAM Act, calling it, “the single biggest amnesty in the history of the United States.”
  • In July of 2018, a judge temporarily blocked the deporations of families reunited after being separated at the border, in order to give them time to plan next steps regarding possible asylum claims. In response, Sen. Cotton stated, “No judge—certainly not a trial judge in California—should set our nation’s immigration policy, which is the responsibility of Congress and the President. This misguided ruling will only make it harder to secure our border.”