During a trip to the southern border with other U.S. senators, John Cornyn discussed the need for federal immigration reform, indicating he is working on a proposal to create “an immigration system that is safe, orderly, humane and legal.”
Cornyn led the group of senators on a tour of a migrant processing center in El Paso a day after President Joe Biden spent a few hours there on his way to the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City. Before this brief stop, Biden had not visited the border during his two years in office.
In addition to Cornyn, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), James Lankford (R-OK), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) made the trip, which included a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma, Arizona. Within the past year, several of these senators have found common ground in supporting legislation that enables extravagant spending, expands gun control, and codifies gay marriage.
Since Biden became president in January 2021, more than 4.5 million migrants have illegally crossed the southern border, overwhelming U.S. Border Patrol officials and endangering nearby communities. Despite receiving relentless criticism for this security failure, however, Biden and his administration—particularly Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas—have refused to acknowledge the crisis and blamed former President Donald Trump and Republicans for impeding efforts to fix a “broken immigration system.”
Although Cornyn has criticized Biden for his lax border policies, he took a more conciliatory tone during this trip.
“We keep hearing from President Biden and others that we need Congress to step up and provide some answers, and I’m happy that we are,” Cornyn said during a press conference in El Paso.
To be passed into law, an immigration bill would need to appeal to both the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-led Senate, where legislation must garner the support of at least 60 senators to avoid a filibuster. Such a proposal could include additional resources for border security and immigration courts, a streamlined asylum process, and a path to citizenship for individuals brought to the United States illegally as children.
Cornyn has been a hardliner on the issue of immigration for most of his Senate career, but in recent years he’s demonstrated an increased willingness to work across the aisle.
In 2018, he co-sponsored a bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants eligible for former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In 2020, Cornyn called for the legalization of “Dreamers”—individuals brought to the country illegally as children and the subject of the never-passed DREAM Act—after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Trump’s attempt to dismantle DACA. The following year, Cornyn negotiated with Senate Democrats on a failed comprehensive immigration proposal before teaming up with North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R) to push for legalizing some DACA recipients.
Cornyn’s remarks during his recent border trip are the latest indication that he is working on an immigration compromise. This effort follows a year in which he brokered a deal with Democrats on a new federal gun control law and voted for a $250 billion corporate welfare bill for computer chips manufacturing companies and a $1.7 trillion pork-laden omnibus bill.
The Republican Party of Texas platform is not ambiguous when it comes to illegal immigration. According to Plank 255, “Any form of amnesty with regard to immigration policy shall not be granted, including the granting of legal status to persons in the country illegally.”
It sounds like Cornyn isn’t taking anything off the table, however.
“There’s nobody else to turn to. It is our responsibility, it is our job to try to address these very difficult, multifaceted problems. … There’s no alternative but to step up and deal with this the best we can. This group of senators has a history of dealing with tough political challenges. We’re all interested in solutions. And I think this current crisis cries out for a solution.”