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ND-Sen: Republican Kevin Cramer splits with President Trump on immigration reform. Here's why.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who is leading a contentious Senate battle with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), somewhat breaks with President Donald Trump on immigration reform. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Despite largely tying himself to President Donald Trump and the "Make America Great Again" agenda, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) — who is challenging Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) for her Senate seat — is breaking from the White House on one of its most important issues: immigration.

The Trump administration does not hide its immigration agenda, controversial as it is. Trump has openly advocated against illegal immigration, supports a border wall, and seeks to limit the number of legal immigrants allowed in the U.S. each year.

However, Cramer doesn't believe Trump's agenda, specifically toward legal immigrants, is in the best interest of North Dakota.

What did Cramer say?

The congressman told the Washington Examiner in a recent interview that if the Trump administration moves forward with its plan to curtail legal immigration then important North Dakota employment sectors like health care, as well as emerging industries like technology, will be hit especially hard.

"If it weren’t for doctors from India, North Dakota would be short a lot of doctors and a lot of other health care professionals. I don’t like the idea of reducing the numbers of legal immigrants to come into the country, because right now we have an economy that is in greater need of workforce than jobs," he told the Examiner.

The Trump administration is currently considering a plan that would make it more difficult for legal immigrants — those who hold valid green cards — from becoming citizens if they ever directly benefited from a welfare program.

However, two of Trump's biggest immigration reform planks — building a border wall and emphasizing legal immigrants who are highly skilled and educated individuals — represent ideas that Cramer supports.

Still, he emphasized qualitative discretion, not simply quantitative limitations.

"But I think a legal immigration system that is generous in volume but discretionary in its scrutiny — by that I mean of course, skill-sets and education, merit-based system," he told the Examiner. "I think a generous merit-based system makes sense for our economy."

Where does Heitkamp stand?

Heitkamp, a moderate Democrat facing an uphill battle in Trump country, is mostly onboard with the president's immigration agenda. In fact, she has gone so far as to criticize the administration for not acting decisively on border security more than a year and a half into Trump's presidency.

"I do not believe our Southwest border’s secure. So I don’t share the view, when people say: ‘Well, we don’t need to do anything, the border’s secure.’ The border’s not secure. But we need to be smart about how we do border security," she said earlier in August. "We’re waiting for a southern border strategy."

She also told Breitbart News last week that she hopes to avoid a government shutdown next month, one Trump has promised if border security is not funded.

"I’ve always supported increased and enhanced border security along our southwest border with Mexico — including physical barriers, sensors, drones, and more resources at our ports of entry — and yes, wall funding as well. My votes clearly reflect a commitment to robust border security funding. And shutting down the government is never the way to go," she said.

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