Republican U.S. Senator from Arkansas
In the last decade, Tom Cotton has risen quickly in the Republican Party. A military veteran and graduate of Harvard Law School, he was first elected to Congress to represent Arkansas’ traditionally Democratic-leaning 4th district in 2012. Since 2015, he has served as the junior U.S. senator from Arkansas.
During the Trump administration, Cotton pushed legislation that closely followed Trump’s “Four Pillars” immigration framework, which sought to increase funding for border security, including a wall; create a path to citizenship for DACA-eligible undocumented immigrants contingent on good behavior; eliminate the Diversity Visa lottery; and limit family-sponsored migration by allowing citizens to sponsor only their spouses and minor children. Cotton also supported some of Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, like barring travel from predominantly Muslim countries and appropriating emergency funds for the border wall.
Cotton has pushed for a complete overhaul of the immigration system, one that lowers overall immigration while prioritizing highly skilled individuals. This was the crux of his most famous piece of immigration legislation, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, which he co-sponsored with former Georgia Senator David Perdue in 2017. The bill sought to cap refugee admissions, end the Diversity Visa lottery, limit family-sponsored immigration to include only spouses and minor children, and “eliminate the demand-driven model of employment-based immigration and replace it with a points system.” Under the proposed points system, an immigrant’s chances of receiving a visa would increase based on factors like level of education, English fluency, and past achievements. The bill received praise from President Trump, while Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain expressed opposition to its strict restrictionist goals. The bill ultimately failed to gain traction.
Cotton later threw his support behind another initiative with similar aims, co-sponsoring the Secure and Succeed Act with Senators Grassley, Cornyn, Tillis, Perdue, Lankford, and Ernst in 2018. The bill sought to provide citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, provided they met requirements to obtain education, find employment, and abide by the law. In exchange, the amendment would have eliminated the Diversity Visa lottery, limited family-sponsored immigration to include only spouses and minor children, and allocated $25 billion to secure the border. The Secure and Succeed Act failed to pass the Senate.
- The Making of a Conservative Superstar The Atlantic — September 17, 2014
- Cotton Speaks on Senate Floor in Favor of the Secure and Succeed Act Tom Cotton — February 13, 2018
- Fix Immigration. It’s What Voters Want. The New York Times (Opinion) — December 28, 2016
- Senator Cotton Speaks About Immigration and Refugees on the Senate Floor Tom Cotton - March 14, 2018
- Cotton Speaks in Support of ICE Tom Cotton — July 19, 2018
- President Donald J. Trump Backs RAISE Act White House — August 2, 2017
- Graham opposes measure to cut legal immigration The Hill — August 2, 2017
- Two Republican senators seek to slash legal U.S. immigration Reuters — February 7, 2017
- Bipartisan DACA, border security deal fails in Senate, putting immigration bill’s future in doubt CNN — February 15, 2018
- The Secure and Succeed Act Secures the Border, Ends Chain Migration, Cancels the Visa Lottery, and Finds a Permanent Solution for DACA Department of Homeland Security — February 14, 2018
- Cotton and Perdue Introduce the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act Tom Cotton — August 2, 2017
- Cotton Addresses Border Emergency on the Senate Floor Tom Cotton — March 14, 2019
- Loeffler, Cotton Introduce ICE Act Kelly Loeffler — August 6, 2020
- Immigration Newsmaker Transcript: A Conversation with Senator Tom Cotton Center for Immigration Studies — July 31, 2019
- Sen. Cotton calls Democratic bill to stop family separations 'Child Trafficking Encouragement Act' THV11 News — June 19, 2018
- GOP senators propose $10 minimum wage, mandatory E-Verify Roll Call — February 2021
- Cotton introduces bill to solve the border crisis Tom Cotton — April 2021