Trump backs bill to cut legal immigration, slash green card issues

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"Gutting legal immigration [is] nothing more than a partisan ploy appealing to the racist [and] xenophobic instincts Trump encouraged during campaign,"tweeted Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois)".

The bill introduced by Senators Perdue and Cotton is a re-imagined version of Perdue's previously announced "Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act".

Trump is not grudging Cotton any praise, calling the latest move the "most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century". "It also increases the risk of the recession".

The bill's supporters, meanwhile, say it would make the US more competitive, raise wages and create jobs. It would implement a points-based system for awarding lawful permanent residency, or green cards.

The current USA immigration system favours uniting family members with relatives already in the country.

"Their bill would do three things: First, limit the number of foreign nationals who are able to get green cards to reunite with their families already in the USA - now the largest category of legal immigrants; second, cut the number of refugees in half; third, eliminate the diversity visa lottery - a program that gives visas to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States".

But the Senate has largely ignored the measure, with no other lawmaker signing on as a co-sponsor. As a matter of federal law, most immigrants are not eligible for public benefits for at least five years.

Cotton said the United States accepts over a million immigrants a year, the equivalent of adding the population of Montana every single year or Arkansas every three years.

The proposal would then establish a grading system for new immigrants where the prospective green card holders would be judged on their median salary, advanced degrees, ability to speak English, skills needed by the economy and whether you are able to afford your own health care.

Under the RAISE Act, the number of green cards issued would drop to 600,000 the first year and level off to 500,000 over the span of a decade, Cotton told NPR.

On Wednesday afternoon, President Trump unveiled the RAISE Act, an immigration bill aimed at reducing legal immigration overall, and give priority to English-speaking applicants.

Trump said the bill would take aim at programs that predominantly admit low-skilled immigrants, which he said has displaced American workers and depressed wages. More than 50% of all immigrant households receive welfare benefits, while 30% of native households do, according to the administration. A stunning 18 percent held an advanced degree, also much higher than the USA average. 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. As a candidate, I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects USA workers and taxpayers - and that is why we are here today.

Graham said the legislation would primarily target immigrants who work in the state's agriculture, tourism, and service industries, and would even prompt greater amounts of illegal immigration.

Perdue said the proposed new immigration system will be both pro-growth and pro-economic growth.

Last week, when speculation about Sessions was rife, Sanders repeatedly declined opportunities to provide assurances that the attorney general enjoyed the president's full confidence.

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