Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue are set to introduce legislation Tuesday that would cut legal immigration to the U.S. by 50 percent over the next 10 years.
President Donald Trump pledged during his campaign to end illegal immigration, and criticized the current legal immigration system. Trump campaign site says that the U.S. needs to reform legal immigration to “serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.”
Cotton echoed this sentiment in an interview with Fox News Tuesday.
“I think too often the debate over immigration focuses only on illegal immigration, and security and enforcement. Those are certainly important measures. But right now we have a legal immigration system that is not working for American workers,” the senator said.
Perdue, the bill’s co-sponsor, told Politico, “Returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages.”
The bill, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, will reform several aspects of the current legal immigration system.
Currently, U.S. citizens and green card holders can sponsor extended family to receive visas, but Cotton and Perdue’s bill would limit family sponsorship for green cards only to spouses and unmarried minors. The bill would also limit the amount of annual refugee resettlements at 50,000, the same amount Trump pegged in his recent executive order. Around 1 million individuals currently receive green cards, and Cotton aims to put that number around 500,000.
The U.S. also gives out 50,000 visas per year through the diversity visa lottery, which allots visas to countries which have low rates of immigration to the U.S. This program would no longer exist under the RAISE Act. Immigration hawk Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is Trump’s pick for attorney general and is likely to be confirmed, and Cotton is now trying to fill his fellow southern senator’s shoes.
Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA, which advocates for reduced immigration, said, “Sen. Cotton has made it clear that he’s stepping not necessarily into the shoes, but onto the platform where Sessions’ shoes have been.” Beck added, “This is beyond anything Sen. Sessions ever did.”