A new Senate bill on immigration endorsed by President Donald Trump would see the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for five decades.
Trump made an appearance with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) in early August to unveil a modified version of a bill the senators first unveiled in February. The bill would slash legal immigration levels by half and bring in a “merit-based” system that would switch the emphasis away from family ties to job skills when awarding green cards. The bill would also significantly cut the number of visas allocated every year. It would reduce the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence to lawful arrivals to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million.
The legislation is in line with Trump’s “America First” initiative which has already seen the president proposing radical changes to the H-1B visa system.
Trump met Cotton and Perdue on two previous occasions at the White House to discuss their legislation titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (Raise) Act. The bill claims the present immigration system is flawed and floods the United States with millions of new arrivals who lack skills. It states:
“For over a quarter century, the United States has accepted an average of 1 million immigrants annually — the equivalent of adding the entire state of Montana each year. But when only 1 out of every 15 immigrants arrives in the United States on a skills-based visa, the majority of the remaining immigrants are either low-skill or unskilled.”
The legislation claims this perceived influx of low-skilled labor has undercut the wages of “working immigrants.” It claims wages for Americans who hold high school diplomas only fell by 2 percent since the late 1970s. The salaries of those who never completed school fell by nearly 20 percent over the same period. This collapse in wages threatens to create a “near permanent underclass for whom the American Dream is always just out of reach.”
What the New Senate Bill on Immigration Proposes
The new Senate bill on immigration proposes a number of ways of cutting legal immigration:
1. Target “Chain Migration” to the United States
The RAISE Act would retain immigration preferences for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent immigrants but eliminate preferences for adult family members and extended family members of U.S. citizens. These include adult parents of citizens and married adult children of citizens.
2. A Grading System for New Immigrants
The proposal would set up a grading system for new immigrants to the United States. Prospective green card holders would be judged on their median salary, ability to speak English, advanced degrees, their skills and whether they are able to afford their own health care.
3. The Elimination of the Diversity Lottery
The bill says the Diversity Lottery is plagued with fraud, has no economic or humanitarian interest, and fails to delivery diversity. The Diversity Lottery is aimed at counties with low rates of immigration to the United States. The RAISE Act would cut the 50,000 visas arbitrarily allocated to this lottery.
4. Limit the Number of Refugees
The RAISE Act would cut refugees offered permanent residency in the United States to 50,000 per year, in line with a 13-year average.
Trump had met twice previously at the White House with Cotton and Perdue to discuss the details of their legislation, which is titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (Raise) Act. Their proposal calls for reductions to family-based immigration programs, cutting off avenues for the siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to apply for green cards. Minor children and spouses would still be able to apply.
According to a June Gallup poll, 35 percent said immigration should be decreased while a similar 38 percent said it should remain at current levels and 24 percent said it should be increased.The President’s endorsement of the bill marks a watershed moment for many groups that have been pushing these proposals for years. However, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, reports The Hill.
If you are seeking help or advise on an immigration matter please call Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.