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Wednesday, August 2, 2017
TRUMP: Senate Immigration Bill Orchestrated to Put AMERICA FIRST
Dave Boyer and Stephen Dinan
President Trump threw his support Wednesday behind a Senate bill that would cut legal immigration in half and implement a new merit-based system that emphasis English-speaking immigrants who can demonstrate job skills.
Meeting at the White House with GOP Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the bill’s sponsors, the president said the revised legislation “would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century.”
The measure, known as the RAISE Act, “will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars,” Mr. Trump said.
The legislation would slash legal immigration in half, to 500,000 per year, over the next decade. The senators said it would replace the current permanent employment-visa framework with a skills-based system that rewards applicants based on their individual merits.
Mr. Cotton said the current immigration system is “an obsolete disaster” in which only 1 immigrant in 15 comes to the U.S. because of their job skills.
“I think it’s a symbol that were’ not committed to working-class Americans,” Mr. Cotton said of the current system.
The new system would reward education, English-language ability, high-paying job offers, past achievements, and entrepreneurial initiative. The White House said it would be similar to the merit-based immigration systems used by Canada and Australia.
The measure prioritizes immediate family members of U.S. residents, including spouses and minor children, but would end preferences for extended family members and adult children.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. has for decades issued green cards to “record numbers of low-wage immigrants,” and said it puts pressure on unskilled workers who are U.S. citizens already.
“It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, and to our workers,” the president said. He said the new system would “favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”
Americans are divided on the right level of legal immigration. About 40 percent want to see the numbers cut, while another 40 percent want them to stay the same. The remaining 20 percent want to see increases.
The U.S. system is widely seen as broken, however, with immigrants — both legal and illegal — often having more say in the matter than the government itself. Extended families, business relationships and even a random lottery are used to award permanent visas.
Congress has pondered imposing a points system before, a decade ago, when then-President George W. Bush pushed for a massive overhaul that also would have legalized illegal immigrants. That bill died in the Senate.
Immigrant-rights groups accused Mr. Trump of catering to “white nationalists,” saying that non-white immigrants are far more prevalent among low-skilled, poor English-speaking immigrants who would be disadvantaged under the points system.
“Let’s call it as we see it: this is a white nationalist agenda masquerading as a bill about skill levels,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
The measure would prohibit new immigrants from collecting welfare, which Mr. Trump called “a very big thing.”
“They’re not going to come in and immediately go and collect welfare.They can’t do that,” he said.
The president of Numbers USA, a group seeking tighter immigration limits, said the legislation “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.”
“Our recent polling confirms that American voters overwhelmingly want far less immigration because they know mass immigration creates unfair competition for American workers,” said the group’s president, Roy Beck. “Seeing the president standing with the bill’s sponsors at the White House gives hope to the tens of millions of struggling Americans in stagnant jobs or outside the labor market altogether.”
The modern U.S. immigration system was established in 1965 when Congress decided the country should broaden traditional avenues of entry, abolish nationality quotas and expand family reunification.
The result was a system where about two-thirds of the green cards issued each year are for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, while employment green cards account for about 15 percent. Refugees and asylees also account for about 15 percent.
Then there’s the diversity visa lottery, established in 1990, which doles out green cards based on chance. The goal was to give potential immigrants who don’t have family ties or job prospects a shot at making it to the U.S.
The new bill would nix the lottery, with the Trump administration saying it “serves questionable economic and humanitarian interests.”
The new bill would also limit permanent resident status for refugees to 50,000 a year, which the White House says is in line with the average over the past 13 years.
Cornell University Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, who studies immigration policy, said the chances of Congress approving the legislation in the next two years are slim.
“It has been very hard for Congress to fix our broken immigration system,” he said. “Like health care reform and tax reform, immigration reform is complex and controversial.”