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Immigration 101: Who is John Cornyn and What is the Cornyn Con?

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Last updated May 4, 2021. 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is infamous within the immigration policy world for always talking a good game about passing immigration reform even though he has spent the last decade blocking any meaningful legislation. 

As the senior senator from a state with a large immigrant population, Cornyn should have helped Texas immigrants by opposing the 1,200-mile border wall (which was built on private land and poses a lasting threat to the environment). Latinos in Texas comprise 38 percent of the population, and the state is home to 124,000 DACA recipients. Most Texas voters – 63 percent – oppose deporting Dreamers, according to a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. With these figures, you would think that Sen. Cornyn would be a major champion for Dreamers and immigrant protections. He’s not.

He has repeatedly voted no on policies that would move Dreamers forward on a path to citizenship, created a false narrative about himself, purporting to care about Dreamers to his Spanish-speaking audience, all while presenting contradictory beliefs to English-speaking audiences. He showed his true colors when it comes to fair and humane treatment on the border under the Biden administration.

Cornyn’s record on immigration

There is no way that Sen. Cornyn can be trusted,” said Mario Carrillo, head of America’s Voice Texas, warning that Cornyn won’t do anything “that doesn’t appease the right-wing members of Congress and the right-wing nationalists in the Trump administration.”

Cornyn is a key player in the continued failure to pass immigration reform because of his repeated history of voting against many legislative attempts, such as the 2010 Dream Act. Critics cite his record of continually throwing roadblocks in previous immigration debates, especially during the 2013 comprehensive immigration overhaul crafted by the “Gang of Eight.”

The “proof is in the pudding,” as they say. Cornyn’s record on immigration — and how he has repeatedly stymied reform despite claiming that he supports it — follows below:

  • In 2006-7, during the immigration reform debate, Cornyn repeatedly introduced poison-pill amendments to undermine any potential for passage. After the bill’s defeat in 2007 thanks in no small part to Cornyn, he had the audacity to deliver a speech on the Senate floor about the need to pass immigration reform.
  • In 2010, Cornyn voted against the Dream Act proving once again that he is unable to “walk the talk” in support of immigration reform or legislation to help Dreamers.
  • In Jan. 2011, Cornyn received the “Biggest Hypocrite on Immigration” award by America’s Voice for consistently voting against immigration reform. In an effort to curry favor with the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference, Cornyn reiterated his “commitment to overhauling immigration.”
  • In 2013, Cornyn had a chance to pass an immigration reform bill, but he worked to help kill it instead by exercising his pattern of delay, delay, delay and introducing an amendment to S. 744. The Gang of Eight viewed his maneuver as an effort to tank the overhaul, and derided the measure as cost-prohibitive, logistically improbable, and a “poison pill.”
  • On Dec. 2017, America’s Voice described the “Cornyn Con” and the process by which Cornyn has been trying to play both sides of the political aisle while helping to sink  immigration reform in 2006, 2007 and 2013.
  • On Dec. 5, 2017, the Cornyn-Grassley bill was introduced. The bill would create incredibly weak protections for Dreamers in exchange for a host of anti-immigrant provisions that would harm millions.
  • On Jan. 3, 2018, Cornyn included a DACA fix paired with a border security package to his list of 2018 priorities. While talking a good con game for supporting the Dream Act, Cornyn continues to turn a deaf ear on more than 80 percent of Americans, including two-thirds of Republicans, who support Dreamers and want them to remain in the U.S. In Texas, an overwhelming majority of Latinos – 89 percent – want passage of the Dream Act. In fact, a Sept. Fox News Poll found 79 percent of Americans overall, and 63 percent of Trump voters, believe DACA Dreamers should be granted citizenship. That’s right — not just legal status but the opportunity to become Americans.
  • On Jan. 11, 2018, America’s Voice warned that Cornyn was becoming a major obstacle to enacting a bipartisan Dreamer deal. He continues exerting the “Cornyn Con” by feigning interest in being a good faith negotiator, while continuing his pattern of delaying and derailing, similar to 2006, 2007 and 2013. Most recently, Cornyn has teamed up with Senator Sinema on a new bill that would expedite asylum cases by expanding CBP and other processing programs, and rush the asylum process (thus, the credible fear assessment), and effectively return to the Trump Administration’s PACR and HARP programs which led to high rates of negative credible fear determinations.
  • In February 2018, Cornyn endorsed Donald Trump’s extremist and anti-immigrant framework, which did not received support from either Democrats or moderate Republicans. Since the framework would have cut legal immigration, turn women and children seeking asylum away at the border, increase deportations, and it was considered dead on arrival, Cornyn clearly did not intend to further real immigration reform efforts by supporting it.
  • He also claimed that Republicans “offered the sun and the moon and that wasn’t enough” for Democrats on DACA — a laughable idea considering that Senate Republicans were the ones who didn’t vote for February 2018 amendments that could have protected Dreamers.
  • In 2018, Cornyn expressed concern over family separation practices but chose to blame Democrats for not wanting to “work with us to solve the problem, shame on them.” All while the Republican president and his cabinet were found to be at fault according to recent reports (if it wasn’t evident already), and Cornyn voted alongside the party lines during the Trump Administration most times. 
  • In a 2020 Spanish-language ad, Cornyn claims that he “strongly supports the legalization of Dreamers” as a way to garner votes for re-election. Not only did his English ads not reflect the same values presented in the Spanish ad, but Cornyn has repeatedly let down Dreamers in every way possible during his time as Senator. As we highlighted, Cornyn’s voting record could not be clearer: he voted against bills that legalized Dreamers in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2018.
  • It seems that Cornyn believes only some people are worthy of humane and fair treatment. In a bizarre tweet written on March 22, 2021, John Cornyn stated that President Biden has “emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status” in reference to those seeking asylum at our border. 
  • In 2021, John Cornyn “teamed up” with Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) on a new bill that would expedite asylum cases by expanding CBP and other processing programs, and rush the asylum process (thus, the credible fear assessment), and effectively return to the Trump Administration’s PACR and HARP programs which led to high rates of negative credible fear determinations.
  • Shortly after his alleged attempts at bipartisan legislation, John Cornyn was quoted in the New York Times saying, “Before we can do anything meaningful on immigration, we’re going to have to deal with the current crisis at the border. I don’t think the public is going to tolerate us ignoring this crisis, and it’s just going to get worse unless we deal with it.”

See more content from America’s Voice on John Cornyn>>