On Thursday, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake published an op-ed criticizing the president’s stance on immigration.
The Republican congressman penned his New York Times article at a turbulent time for President Trump, who has been facing a significant backlash from legislators over his handling of a white supremacist rally in Virginia.
Rather than touching on Trump’s most recent blunders, Flake opted instead to focus on a piece of legislation propped by the president as an ideal control for immigration.
The bill – known now as the RAISE Act – could slash legal immigration to the United States by half over the course of the next decade.
The act would place firm restrictions on the varieties of immigrant allowed to work on American soil, with value being assigned by a series of points. Most visas would be offered to candidates with college degrees and English-language proficiency.
Were the bill to become law, it would cut back the number of unskilled laborers allowed to enter the United States annually. Moreover, visa programs which offer green cards to the relatives of current U.S. residents would also be reduced.
While Flake conceded that a points-based system for immigration would be an improvement on current policy, he objected to the scale of the proposed cuts on less-skilled would-be migrants.
“While re-evaluating immigration policy, it is right to give priority, through a system of points or otherwise, to those who have skills and abilities unique to the new economy,” wrote Flake. “But there must always be a place in America for those whose only initial credentials are a strong back and an eagerness to work.”
The op-ed only mentioned President Trump by name once, but Flake didn’t shy away from taking shots at the commander-in-chief.
The Arizona senator opened his piece by recounting one of Donald Trump’s most controversial remarks to date.
“Someone recently said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.”
“The man who said that never met Manuel Chaidez,” wrote Flake.
Chaidez, said the senator, was a teenage laborer who worked at Flake’s father’s Arizona ranch when the legislator was a young boy.
The 16-year old didn’t speak much English and had few material possessions or educational qualifications.
Chaidez’s “capacity for hard, backbreaking work was his sole credential in life,” Flake wrote, and wouldn’t likely have been judged a high-value immigrant under the RAISE Act’s assessment.
“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.”
Despite having written a book about conservativism, Flake has been a long-time critic of Donald Trump.
The Arizona legislator refused to endorse his candidacy in the 2016 presidential election and, according to Politico, has rebuked Trump publicly and on television.
Among the longest-running themes of the Trump campaign and Trump presidency has been a proposed crackdown on illegal immigration.
The commander-in-chief, before assuming office and since, has repeatedly promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, calling low-skill migrants a drain on the national well-being.
Flake recounts how, despite being deported from the United States repeatedly, Chaidez continued to return to his family ranch for seasonal work.
Somehow Chaidez managed to beat back and the past, obtain a green card and become a permanent resident of the United States. Now a grown man, the once-illegal immigrant has seven children, including one who he adopted.
“By working by their side,” Flake wrote, “I came to know that these Americans by choice are some of the most inspiring Americans of all.”