President Donald Trump will join two leading Republican senators at the White House on Wednesday to formally introduce a bill that would slash legal immigration levels in half and implement a merit-based system for potential migrants, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
GOP Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas will reintroduce an updated version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, a bill they originally proposed in February that failed to gain traction in the Senate.
The legislation seeks to curtail the current practice of family chain migration and move to a points system that would “tailor the immigration system to meet the needs of our economy,” a spokeperson for Perdue’s office told TheDCNF.
The updated RAISE Act, which has also been reported by the Washington Examiner, moves the focus of Trump’s immigration agenda from cracking down on illegal immigration to reducing the number and types of people allowed to immigrate. Trump has previously couched support for the bill in terms of protecting American workers, who he says are hurt by the current immigration system. (RELATED: White House Backs Senate Bill To Cut Legal Immigration, Move To Merit-Based System)
“Instead of today’s low-skilled system — which is a terrible system where anyone comes in, people who have never worked, people that are criminals, anyone comes in — we want a merit-based system,” he said at an Ohio rally last week. “One that protects our workers, protects our taxpayers, and one that protects our economy.”
The RAISE Act establishes a points-based merit system that gives priority to high-skilled immigrants and potential job-creating entrepreneurs. The changes are modeled on the Canadian and Australian systems, according to Perdue’s office.
In what will likely prove to be the most controversial provision, the bill would dramatically reduce overall immigration levels by doing away with chain migration. Current immigration law allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their parents, siblings and married adult children for immigrant visas. Under the RAISE Act, only spouses and minor children could apply for admission based on family ties.
The bill also caps annual refugee admissions at 50,000 and completely eliminates the diversity visa lottery, a Department of State program that awards immigrant visas to people from countries with historically low levels of immigration to the U.S.
While Perdue’s office says the bill does not include a “hard and fast cap” on the number of family-based visas that would be issued, it does seek to bring overall immigration levels to “historic norms.” Previous reports have indicated that number could fall to 500,000 legal permanent residents per year over the next decade.
By contrast, the U.S. took in an average of about 1.1 million legal immigrants annually from 2000 to 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Perdue and Cotton have criticized those historically high levels of immigration, saying they flood the U.S. labor market with low-skill workers who drive down wages for poor and working-class Americans. As Cotton noted when the original RAISE Act was introduced in February, just one in 15 green cards are granted for employment purposes. (RELATED: Immigration Skeptics Make The Economic Case For Less Legal Migration)
Even with Trump’s support, the bill faces an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled Senate. On top of expected Democratic opposition, some Republican senators have expressed skepticism abut cutting legal immigration levels.
GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina all dismissed the RAISE Act in February, exposing deep divisions within the GOP over the issue of legal immigration.
“Over the next 20 years, one thing I can say for certain is America is getting older and the number of workers coming up in the system is not where it has been in the past,” Graham said at the time. “We’re going to need to replenish our workforce.”
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