Trump, GOP senators introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels

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August 2, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump on Wednesday endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels over a decade, a goal Trump endorsed on the campaign trail that would represent a profound change to U.S. immigration policies that have been in place for half a century.

August 2, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump on Wednesday endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels over a decade, a goal Trump endorsed on the campaign trail that would represent a profound change to U.S. immigration policies that have been in place for half a century.

President Donald Trump, flanked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., left, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, during the unveiling of legislation that would place new limits on legal immigration. – AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Trump appeared with Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House to unveil a modified version of a bill the senators first introduced in April to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards per year granting foreigners permanent legal residence in the United States.

The outlines of the legislation reflect the aims Trump touted on the campaign trail, when he argued that the rapid growth of immigration over the past half century had harmed job opportunities for American workers and led to risks to national security. Trump had met twice previously at the White House with Cotton and Perdue to discuss the details of their legislation, which is titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.

"This would be the most significant reform to the immigration system in half a century," said Trump, flanked by the senators in the Roosevelt Room. "It is a historic and very vital proposal."

The legislation would mark a major shift in U.S immigration laws, which over the past half century have permitted a growing number of immigrants to come to the country to work or join relatives already living here legally.

To achieve the reductions, Cotton and Perdue are taking aim at green cards for extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, limiting such avenues for grown children, grandparents and siblings. Minor children and spouses would still be allowed to apply for green cards.

The senators also propose to end a visa diversity lottery that has awarded 50,000 green cards a year, mostly to areas in the world that traditionally do not have as many immigrants to the United States, including Africa. Aides to Cotton said the bill will not include provisions to limit low-skilled temporary workers. It is expected to cap refugee levels at 50,000 per year.

Under the bill, the new immigration system would award points to green card applicants based on such factors as English ability, education levels and job skills. The senators said the proposal is modeled after immigration programs in Canada and Australia.

Cotton said that while immigrant rights groups might view the current system as a "symbol of America virtue and generosity" he sees it "as a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that."

Trump called the changes necessary to protect American workers, including racial minorities, from rising competition for lower-paid jobs.

"Among those who have been hit hardest in recent years are immigrants and minority workers competing for jobs against brand new arrivals," Trump said. "It has not been fair to our people, our citizens and our workers."

But the bill's prospects are dim in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority and would have difficulty getting 60 votes to prevent a filibuster. The legislation is expected to face fierce resistance from congressional Democrats and immigrant rights groups and opposition from business leaders and some moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.

Opponents of slashing immigration levels said immigrants help boost the economy and that studies have shown they commit crimes at lower levels than do native-born Americans.

"This is just a fundamental restructuring of our immigration system which has huge implications for the future," said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies. "This is part of a broader strategy by this administration to rid the country of low-skilled immigrants they don't favor in favor of immigrants in their image."

Groups that favor stricter immigration policies hailed the legislation as a step in the right direction. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said the RAISE Act "will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump's promises as a candidate to create an immigration system that puts the interests of American workers first."


Courtesy/Source: Washington Post