President Donald Trump was joined by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., at a White House news conference on Wednesday to tout an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system. Republican Georgia Sen. David Perdue also will co-sponsor the bill.
Known as the RAISE Act – Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy – Trump and Cotton said it was time to restructure immigration laws in the U.S. They claim their overhaul will be the most significant change in the last 50 years. Trump campaigned on a promise to more greatly enforce border laws and to curtail illegal immigration in America.
The RAISE Act actually centers on legal immigration. It would:
- Establish a skills-based points system to replace the current permanent employment-visa system with a skills-based points system, akin to the systems used by Canada and Australia;
- Prioritize immediate family households aimed at retaining immigration preferences for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, while eliminating preferences for certain categories of extended and adult family members;
- Eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which they claim is plagued with fraud; and
- Place a limit on permanent residency for refugees by limiting permanent residency to 50,000 per year.
“For decades our immigration system has been completely divorced from the needs of our economy, and working Americans’ wages have suffered as a result. Our legislation will set things right,” said Cotton. “We will build an immigration system that raises working wages, creates jobs, and gives every American a fair shot at creating wealth, whether your family came over on the Mayflower or just took the oath of citizenship.”
“President Trump campaigned on growing our economy and fixing our immigration system,” said Perdue. “Right now, our current immigration system does not meet the needs of our economy. We want to welcome talented individuals from around the world who wish to come to the United States legally to work and make a better life for themselves. The RAISE Act will create a skills-based system that is more responsive to the needs of our economy and preserves the quality of jobs available to American workers.”
The measure will stir controversy among many Democrats and notable pro-immigration advocates. The National Farmers Union has expressed concerns about stricter legal immigration enforcement, particularly if the focus centers on high-skill, high-wage priorities. The advocacy organization said immigration reform must “include real solutions for farmers and ranchers, many of whom rely on immigrant laborers.”
“This is just a fundamental restructuring of our immigration system which has huge implications for the future,” Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies, told The Washington Post. “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.”