Uphill climb for Trump's immigration overhaul

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-03 16:22:49|Editor: Song Lifang
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- After a string of setbacks in advancing his political agenda, U.S. President Donald Trump rolled out legislation to overhaul the country's legal immigration system on Wednesday, but his crackdown-approach is likely to land him in another uphill battle.


Trump threw his support behind the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act at a White House event on Wednesday, which is developed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia.

Introducing what he called the most significant overhaul of immigration in half a century, Trump said the current system "has not been fair" to U.S. workers as it allows entries of low-skill immigrants hired at a lower salary.

According to the White House, only one in 15 immigrants come to the United States because of their skills.

"For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skill immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low-wage immigrants," Trump said.

This current policy, he said, has placed "substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources."

Perdue said the simple reason to sponsor this bill is that the current system does not work.

Cotton said the system that allows low-skill and low-wage immigrants to the United States does not stand for its generosity but is "a symbol that we're not committed to working-class Americans."


Initially introduced in February, the Cotton-Perdue bill had proposed a 50-percent cut in annual immigration over the next 10 years, designed to allot green cards for about 540,000 immigrants in 2027, about only half the number issued in 2015.

The bill, which stalled in the Senate for months, was reintroduced with certain changes, including a call for elimination of a diversity visa granted for those who come from countries with a low U.S. immigration rate and a 50,000 annual cap on refugee admissions.

The proposed bill would cut back family-based immigration to stipulate that only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be eligible for green cards.

Preferences for extended and adult family members would also be eliminated.

Furthermore, the act puts forward a merit-based system that grades possible immigrants for earning a green card, a major attempt to completely overhaul the family-based approach.

When evaluating applicants under the RAISE Act, factors that would be taken into account include English language skills, education, job offers, records of achievements, entrepreneurial initiative and age.

Perdue said the bill is modeled on systems in Canada and Australia. "It's been proven to work," he said. "Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers."


The Trump-backed legislation is likely to face an uphill climb through Congress as both Democrats and Republicans have adopted a skeptical attitude.

Shortly after the bill was unveiled, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, though a supporter of merit-based immigration, expressed concerns that it would be devastating to the agriculture-and tourism-driven South Carolina, "which relies on this immigrant workforce."

On the other side of the aisle, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the bill not just an affront to the U.S. values, but also a threat to the U.S. economy in a statement Wednesday.

The National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group, estimated that there would be a work force gap of 7.5 million jobs in the country by 2020.

"The bottom line is to cut immigration by half a million people, legal immigration, doesn't make much sense," said Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic leader.

Immigration advocates also seized upon the bill.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at Washington-based Liberian think tank Cato Institute, argued the Cotton-Perdue won't help boost skilled immigration.

The immigration effort "will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards," Nowrasteh wrote in a blog. "Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing."

Other analysts said the Cotton-Perdue bill is unlikely to be get passed any time soon, as Congress is facing a number of proposals, including tax reform, a budget and lifting the debt ceiling.