(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he thinks it’s a shame “that what we have done with immigrants is to try to cause them to be a part of a terrorist group.”
“And I think it's a shame that what we have done with immigrants is to try to cause them to be a part of a terrorist group. I mean, many of these people truly, especially in Central America, are living in terrible conditions,” Corker said.
Corker was asked about a CBS News poll that says 73 percent of Republicans say those who enter the U.S. illegally should be punished as an example of toughness while 27 percent say they should be treated well as an example of kindness.
“What does that say to you about the identity of your party right now?” asked host Margaret Brennan.
“We do need to be a nation of laws, and we need to get this right, and we need to cause legal immigration to be easier than it is. We have got needs in our country. I have just never been a part of a group that hated someone for wishing something better for their life. Maybe they have a little different color of their skin, and they speak differently,” Corker said.
“I just have never hated someone who traveled through tough conditions to try to come to a place where they could realize their dreams, and so I'm just not part of that group that wants to punish,” he said.
“But the majority of Republicans polled identify as part of that group,” Brennan interjected.
“Yes, I understand, and I think it's a shame that what we have done with immigrants is to try to cause them to be a part of a terrorist group. I mean, many of these people truly, especially in Central America, are living in terrible conditions,” Corker said.
“And, again, we need to be working with Central American governments, many of whom I have met with, on the issues there to make sure that, in those countries, there's more opportunity to live without threat of crime,” the senator added.
Corker said the U.S. needs to enforce immigration laws and when people repeatedly break them, they need to be punished.
However, he said, “we have got to realize, these people are wanting to live in a place like we live. We're the most fortunate people on Earth to live in this country.”
When asked whether Corker believed “the U.S. was committing a human rights violation by separating migrant families,” Corker said, “It obviously is not something that is realistic. It's not something that appreciates these young children, and certainly was done in a ready, fire, aim way, obviously.
“There was no preparation for it. I can't imagine any American's heart not going out to these families, knowing these children are being separated. And then where were they going? So, I'm glad the administration took the steps they took. That's led to another crisis, if you will, because of the 20-day rule that exists,” he said.
“And so, you know, the administration obviously made a large mistake. I know that some in the White House want to use the immigration issue as a force to activate the base for elections, but obviously the president realized that was a mistake, and now it's up to us in Congress to work with them to come up with a longer-term solution,” Corker said.
Brennan asked about Corker supporting legislation that will allow for longer-term detention of families, “but to be held together.”
“Isn't this just indefinite detention at taxpayer expense?” she asked.
“Yes, so, look, Margaret, I wish that we had passed the bill, the House could have made it better, that came out in 2013 that was comprehensive. We keep trying to deal with these micro-issues, all of which are important, whether it's DACA or this issue,” Corker said.
“I realize that, before the election, that's very unlikely to occur, but we need to deal with the whole of the issue. We have got worker needs in our country. We have got this issue of, we do need to be a nation of laws, and so we need to look at the whole thing,” he said.
“In the interim, between now and November, it's likely we will only deal with some of the micro-issues, and the issue just raised is a problem. So, we have got to deal with them,” Corker added.
When asked if the Senate has the votes to “deal with that micro-issue,” he said, “I hope we will. I know that Jim Jordan's coming on next. I know the House has some things that are coming up this week, but I hope that will be the case.
“I think that the Cruz/Feinstein bill, while I'm not sure every detail has been laid out in it yet, but the fact that you have got two people with such ideological differences coming together on this issue does bode for some hope in the Senate,” Corker added.