Trump and senators seek to slash legal
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[August 03, 2017]
By Ayesha Rascoe and Mica Rosenberg
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - After a
crackdown on illegal immigration that has sharply reduced the number of
unauthorized border crossings from Mexico, U.S. President Donald Trump
is now turning his attention to reducing the number of legal immigrants
in the country.
The White House is throwing its support behind a bill developed by
Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia
that would cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years by reducing
the kinds of relatives immigrants can bring into the country.
But the legislation faces an uphill climb to get through Congress where
some senior Republicans back comprehensive immigration reform, not a
Under the new bill, known as the RAISE Act, the United States would
prioritize high-skilled immigrants by setting up a merits-based system
similar to those used by Canada and Australia.
Trump and the Republican lawmakers blasted the current immigration
system as out of date and argued that it hurts American workers by
driving down wages.
"This competitive application process will favor applicants who can
speak English, financially support themselves and their families and
demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy," Trump said.
The Senators said they worked closely with the White House on this
latest version of their bill. "This is probably our third or fourth
visit to the Oval Office to work with President Trump," Cotton told
Slashing legal immigration has long been pushed by low-immigration
advocacy groups in Washington like NumbersUSA and the ideas have been
backed by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is now facing public
criticism from Trump.
NumbersUSA President Roy Beck hailed the bill and said that it "will do
more than any other action to fulfill President Trump's promises as a
candidate." Trump vowed to crack down on illegal immigration during his
campaign and signed two executive orders soon after taking office to
increase border security and interior enforcement.
Cotton and Perdue said their bill does not affect temporary visas for
workers in certain tech sectors and seasonal jobs that are popular with
many businesses. They stressed that the legislation was narrowly
focused, an approach they hoped would be able to get bipartisan support.
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President Trump speaks during an announcement on immigration reform
accompanied by Senator Tom Cotton and Senator David Perdue.
"We're not trying to boil the ocean here and change everything about
our immigration law," Cotton said.
But other Republican lawmakers said the bill might be going too far.
Senator Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, said his state is
dependent on immigrant labor to sustain the two biggest sectors of
the economy, agriculture and tourism.
Economists have called into the question the benefits of cutting
legal immigration. FWD.us, a group that represents the tech industry
said that the bill would "severely harm the economy."
The bill aims to end the diversity visa lottery, which allows 50,000
people from underrepresented countries to obtain green cards.
It also sets a 50,000 annual cap on refugees, instead of a level
mandated by the president.
Refugee organizations said permanently limiting number of refugees
allowed in the country goes against an American value of offering
safe haven to people fleeing violence and oppression.
Trump suggested at an event in New York's Long Island on Friday,
where he spoke out against violence committed by Central American
gang members, that immigrants today are different than in previous
"What happened to the old days when people came into this country
and they worked and they worked and they worked and they had
families and paid taxes and they did all sorts of things and their
families got stronger and they were closely knit?" Trump asked the
audience of law enforcement officers. "We don't see that."
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington)
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