President Donald Trump on Wednesday threw his weight behind a Republican sponsored bill that aims to reduce legal immigration by one-half over the next ten years.
The bill dubbed the RAISE Act is sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia seeks to reduce legal immigration to roughly 500,000 annually, down from the current level of about 1 million.
According to Trump, the bill would favor workers coming over to the US over those coming to join family members. He said that the bill “would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in a half a century,”
The president appeared to be referring to the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which significantly increased immigration by non-Europeans and ended four decades of strict limitations.
The bill proposes ending the process of U.S. citizens and green card holders petitioning for extended family members to become lawful permanent residents. Spouses and minor children would not be affected under the measure.
The odds of the bill passing as it is are steep as it is likely to encounter opposition from Democrats and pro-immigration Republicans.
Already Republican Senator Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has voiced opposition to the bill saying in a written statement, that while he has always supported merit-based immigration, the bill’s halving of immigration would be devastating to our South Carolina’s economy.
However, Trump along with Cotton and Perdue insisted that this bill would result in increased wagers for U.S. workers and promote economic growth.
This view however contradicts economists who have maintained that economic growth will require a large expansion of the U.S. workforce.
Senator Cotton who is a long time proponent of lower immigration levels said that the current immigration systems is “an obsolete disaster,” which is in dire need for reform.
He said that those who enter the US through legal immigration equal the population of Montana saying that most new lawful permanent residents come to the U.S. because of family ties.
A report by Urban Institute showed that through 2002 to 2011, legal permanent residents admitted to the US entered through family petitions which accounted for 65 percent of the new entrants. 14 percent entered on employment-based visas.
Under the Cotton-Perdue bill, the diversity visa lottery which makes available 50,000 visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S would be eliminated.
The bill will also cap annual refugee admissions at 50,000 a level contained in Trump’s executive order on immigration.
The US would maintain a “points system” similar to the admissions processes in Canada and Australia which look at applicants education, English-language ability, prospective salary, age, entrepreneurship and past achievements.