Originally published by Politico
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake took on President Donald Trump’s immigration views in a New York Times op-ed published Friday, arguing that U.S. immigration policy must leave open the nation’s doors for those arriving without any advanced skill but with a willingness to work hard.
The Republican senator’s op-ed comes after Trump on Thursday attacked him on Twitter for being “WEAK on borders, crime and a nonfactor in Senate.” In the same post, Trump offered his support to Kelli Ward, who is running to unseat Flake in 2018. It also comes days before Trump is set to hold a rally in Phoenix.
“When re-evaluating immigration policy, it is right to give priority, through a point system or otherwise, to those who have skills and abilities unique to the new economy,” Flake wrote. “But there must always be a place in America for those whose only initial credentials are a strong back and an eagerness to use it.”
A points-based immigration system is a major component of changes proposed by Trump, policies that would dramatically limit the number of low-skilled workers coming into the U.S. and make substantial overall cuts to the rate of immigration into the country. While Flake said he supports a points system, he has opposed Trump’s plan to so dramatically limit the rate of lower-skilled immigrants and began his op-ed with a thinly veiled shot at the president.
“Someone recently said, ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,’” Flake wrote, recalling Trump’s famous remarks about Mexican immigrants in his campaign kickoff speech. “The man who said that never met Manuel Chaidez.”
Chaidez, the senator wrote, is an immigrant laborer who arrived on Flake’s father’s Arizona ranch as a 16-year-old undocumented worker and was willing to take on the most difficult, labor-intensive jobs. Chaidez’s “capacity for hard, backbreaking work was his sole credential in life,” Flake wrote, and without English language skills or a high school degree, he would not have been judged to be a high-value immigrant.
But a willingness to take on difficult work should be enough to qualify at least some immigrants for entry into the U.S., Flake argued. He said laborers like Chaidez are essential to ranches like his father’s, which he argued are essential to towns like Snowflake, Arizona, where he grew up.
“All Manuel had to recommend him was his strength and his belief that America was a place where, by the labor of your hands, you could create a life for yourself. That is all, and that is everything,” Flake wrote. “In my estimation, Manuel is just about the highest-value immigrant possible, and if we forget that, then we forget something elemental about America.”
Flake is a longtime critic of Trump. He didn’t support Trump during the 2016 presidential election and, besides writing a book on conservatism, has criticized the president publicly during television appearances.
Trump, in backing his own immigration policies, has argued that undocumented and unskilled laborers entering the U.S. drive down wages for American workers and are also a drain on public services like schools and hospitals. Aside from stemming the flow of immigrants into the U.S., Trump has also pushed for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which he has argued would stop not just undocumented immigrants but also the activity of Mexican drug cartels.
Chaidez, despite being deported numerous times, continually returned to the Flake family ranch for work, Flake recalled, and eventually obtained a green card that allowed him legal permanent resident status. He and his wife have seven kids, one of whom is adopted, Flake wrote.
“By working by their side,” the senator wrote, “I came to know that these Americans by choice are some of the most inspiring Americans of all.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/18/jeff-flake-trump-immigration-new-york-times-op-ed-241776?lo=ap_f1