Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) jointly unveiled a new immigration proposal on Tuesday.
Entitled the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act,” the bill seeks to reduce total numbers of foreigners admitted as immigrants and refugees. Cotton and Perdue also claim the act, if codified into law, will benefit “blue collar” workers by reducing the flow of lower-skilled foreigners entering the labor force.
Existing immigration laws, argue Cotton and Perdue, take little consideration of national workforce needs. Only one out of fifteen immigrants, said Cotton, enter “for employment reasons,” adding that the remainder are not entering with EB-1 or EB-2 visas.
According to Cotton, average wages for those with a high school education have dropped two percent since 1979. Those without a high school education, he continued, have seen a seventeen percent drop in their wages since 1979.
The irresponsible status quo of immigration laws, said Cotton, is “pulling the rug out from underneath [blue collars workers].” Without change, he warned, a “permanent underclass” would form without access to the American Dream.
Cotton listed the three primary components of the bill:
- Maintenance of immigration preferences afforded to immediate family members of citizens and green card holders; specifically spouses and unmarried minor children. Exceptions may be afforded for the caring of elderly parents who are ill.Elimination of immigration preference for extended relatives such as parents, adult siblings, and adult children.
- Ending the diversity lottery, which annually issues about fifty thousand visas to winning applicants from countries with “historically low immigration to the United States.”
- Reducing annual refugee intake to fifty thousand.
Over the past twenty-five years, Cotton said, the average number of new immigrants (including refugees) receiving green cards has been about one million. He added that the net effect of the bill, if codified into law, would be the cutting in half of new annual immigration (including refugees) to about five hundred thousand persons.
Asked a question by a journalist regarding the interests of prospective immigrants and refugees, Cotton emphasized his prioritization of American interests over those of foreigners:
"Our intent is to have an immigration system that works for American citizens. I think the premise of your question is looking at it from the wrong way. It looks at it from what's good for the foreigner, not what's good for American citizens. What's good for American citizens is that we have an immigration system that rewards skills, and language ability, and demonstrated economic potential as well as demonstrated economic need. I feel for my fellow man, but i serve my fellow citizen, and our current immigration system simply does not serve our citizens very well.”
Cotton and Perdue rejected the push from Democrats and the broader left for "comprehensive immigration reform," calling instead for a piecemeal approach around "discrete problems" that can preferably be addressed via bipartisan consensus.
President Donald Trump, said Cotton, “strongly supports” changes to make immigration laws more “merit-based.”
Last December, Cotton penned an op-ed calling for reducing the admission of low-skilled immigrants and refugees. The status quo of immigration and refugee admittance, he argued, was driving down "working-class wages."
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