00:46 - Source: CNN
Sen. Flake on Trump's immigration bill

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Flake recently kicked off his re-election campaign with a book railing against Trump

"I grew up working next to migrant labor. I always felt they were making America better," he said

CNN  — 

President Donald Trump’s proposed legislation to curb the level of legal immigration to the United States by instituting a skills-based immigration system will not benefit the American economy, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said Thursday.

“While I agree we ought to move in the direction of some other countries like Australia and Canada in terms of merit-based visas, the overall number cut – I think this would cut it to about half of our legal immigration – just isn’t the right direction for the economy,” Flake, whose book criticizing Trump made headlines this week, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day.”

Immigrants have a long history of enhancing the economy in the Southwestern border state, Flake said, and have left the country “better off.”

“We know very well – in Arizona, in particular – the value of migrant labor,” he said. “I grew up on a ranch in Snowflake, Arizona. I grew up working next to migrant labor. I always felt they were making America better, and we are better off because of their hard work.”

The GOP lawmaker said he supports bipartisan efforts to reform immigration laws that help undocumented immigrants working to support their families.

“I’ve been very supportive of immigration reform that first secures the border, and if we have interior enforcement, but that we have a humane and generous mechanism for those who have crossed the border illegally simply to support their family and haven’t committed criminal acts, other than crossing the border,” he said. “And also to have robust temporary worker programs to allow us to have the labor we need to benefit our economy.”

In Flake’s recently released book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” he said his family can testify to the value that immigrants from majority Muslim countries have brought to their life.

“I have a chapter in there about some doctors that saved my father-in-law. They came from majority-Muslim countries that under the current travel ban, they probably wouldn’t be here,” he said. “So I think we ought to look as Republicans, I hope we are always welcoming of immigrants.”

During a Wednesday press briefing, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller discussed Trump’s legislation when CNN’s Jim Acosta invoked the famous poem inscribed in the base of Statue of Liberty that beckons the world’s “tired … poor … huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to America’s shores. Miller dismissed Acosta’s citation of the words on the Statue of Liberty, saying they were a later addition to the statue.

Cuomo asked Flake if he agreed with Miller that Emma Lazarus’s poem wasn’t “a core principle for America’s invitation to the world.”

Flake said his view on immigration mirrors those of former President Ronald Reagan’s as shared in his second inaugural address.

“He talked about what he saw America as – the shining city on the hill – and that if we obviously couldn’t have open borders – we shouldn’t have – but we should have doors that swing wide for those that want to come here,” the senator said. “And that’s the kind of America that I think we have had and should have in the future.”