U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, thinks Republicans in Congress will find common ground on a solution to address illegal immigration, but he’s not confident in the final outcome of President Donald Trump’s trade and tariff battles.
Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Westerman said he believes E-Verify and temporary worker visas are the biggest hurdles complicating a solution.
“I think we will get on the same page,” he said. “I think E-Verify and temporary worker program visas are what the main trip-up is. There’s a lot of folks in the ag community that want to see more work done on the work visas.”
In recent weeks, media focus and public attention has centered on the repealed “zero tolerance” policy of the Trump administration which resulted in family separations along the southern border.
“We need to do everything we can to keep those family units together, but there are instances where you don’t want the child to stay with the person that brought them across the border,” said Westerman. “We still have sex trafficking, we have all kinds of human trafficking that takes place on the border. We also have a lot of unaccompanied minors that come across the border. So you have to have a facility to house them while they’re here as well. It’s not just cut and dry, one broad stroke and you can fix immigration.”
While the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) controversy is not at the top of the immigration debate headlines these days, it remains an unresolved issue. Westerman said he still doesn’t favor a path to citizenship outside of the normal process for the parents who brought their children here, but he does favor a path to legal status.
“They’ve broken the law, we can’t ignore that,” he said. “If we force them to pay a fine or be deported, gave them five years or something, maybe a $10,000 fine, for every million people that paid that fine, that’s $10 billion that would be collected on that. You don’t give them citizenship. You don’t give them the right to vote. You just give them legal status and then they can get in line to apply for visas and obtain citizenship just like everybody else. But I don’t believe in giving anybody a shortcut to the front of the line, and I don’t think people who have immigrated here legally are for that as well.”
Trump has also ratcheted up his tough talk – and some action – on tariffs with countries ranging from Canada to Mexico to China and the European Union. Westerman said he’s hearing from Fourth District constituents who are nervous about the final outcome on this front.
“It makes me nervous. I think it makes a lot of people nervous, especially when you look at the economy in Arkansas with agriculture, the exports that go out from there,” Westerman said.
“I don’t think we need a trade war, but I do think we need to do things to decrease the trade deficit that we have with other countries. A lot of these products that come into our country, they’re getting tariffs put on their inputs into manufacturing, which creates a lot of jobs here, and even though we may not be shipping those products back out, we’re growing wealth here internally in the country,” he said.
You can catch Westerman’s full interview in the video below.