Senator Jeff Sessions, leading immigration hawk, described the omnibus spending package as a “betrayal” of voters who backed Republicans in the 2014 midterms.
“The voters put Republicans in a majority in the 2014 midterm elections — a vote which constituted a clear decision to reject the abuse of our immigration system,” the Alabama Republican said in a Wednesday afternoon statement. “That loyalty has been repaid with betrayal.”
His critique of the bill covers a range of immigration issues, from President Obama’s refugee program to the populist economic concerns that drove his opposition to the Gang of Eight immigration bill. He was never likely to achieve policy victories in this legislative context, but his attack on the bill could drive Republican defections and create another fault line in the Republican presidential primaries.
Sessions took particular aim at a provision pertaining to visas for low-skill workers. “The more than 2,000 page year-end funding bill contains a dramatic change to federal immigration law that would increase by as much as four-fold the number of low-wage foreign workers provided to employers under the controversial H-2B visa program, beyond what is currently allowed,” he said. “These foreign workers are brought in exclusively to fill blue collar non-farm jobs in hotels, restaurants, construction, truck driving, and many other occupations sought by millions of Americans.”
#share#That concern is a hallmark of Sessions’s thinking on immigration, which has influenced at least three presidential candidates this year – most notably, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) made clear during the CNN debate in Las Vegas that they perceive each other as arch rivals for the nomination by sparring over their immigration records. They also split on the issue of the fast-track legislation that empowered Obama’s team to negotiate an as-yet unratified trade agreement with eleven Pacific Rim countries. In both cases, Cruz ended on the side of Sessions (after initially supporting the fast-track legislation).
“There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion,” Sessions said. “They have come to believe that their party’s elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but – as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President’s international trade pact – openly hostile to them. This legislation represents a further disenfranchisement of the American voter.”