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Trump, GOP senators introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels

By David Nakamura

August 3, 2017 at 12:50 AM

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President Trump announced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act on Aug. 2, which aims to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards granted per year. (The Washington Post)

President Trump on Wednesday endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels in half over a decade, a potentially profound change to policies that have been in place for more than half a century.

Trump appeared with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House to unveil a modified version of a bill the senators first introduced in February to create a “merit-based” immigration system that would put a greater emphasis on the job skills of foreigners over their ties to family in the United States.

The legislation seeks to reduce the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million. Trump promised on the campaign trail to take a harder line on immigration, arguing that the growth in new arrivals had harmed job opportunities for American workers.

Related: [Fact Checker: President Trump’s claim that illegal immigration went up under past administrations]

“Among those who have been hit hardest in recent years are immigrants and minority workers competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals,” said Trump, flanked by the senators in the Roosevelt Room. “It has not been fair to our people, our citizens and our workers.”

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White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller spoke about the president's proposal to reduce immigration at the daily press briefing on August 2. (Reuters)

The bill faces dim prospects in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority and would have difficulty reaching 60 votes to fend off a filibuster. But the president’s event came as the White House sought to move past a major political defeat on repealing the Affordable Care Act by pivoting to issues that resonate with Trump’s core supporters.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has begun laying the groundwork to potentially bring legal challenges against universities over admissions policies that could be deemed to discriminate against white students.

Trump’s critics accused the administration of pursuing policies that would harm immigrants and racial minority groups.

“This offensive plan . . . is nothing but a series of nativist talking points and regurgitated campaign rhetoric that completely fails to move our nation forward toward real reform,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, predicted that the bill would not go far in Congress and called it “red meat to Donald Trump’s base.”

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Despite criticism, a federal program that awards U.S. permanent residency to foreigners through a lottery has been around for more than 20 years. This is how the Diversity Visa Lottery, also known as the green card lottery, works. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

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.

The bill would create a point system based on factors such as English ability, education levels and job skills to rank applicants for the 140,000 employment-based green cards distributed annually.

In addition, the senators propose to cap annual refugee admissions at 50,000 and to end a visa diversity lottery that has awarded 50,000 green cards a year, mostly to applicants from African nations.

Cotton said that while some might view the current immigration system as a “symbol of America’s virtue and generosity,” he sees it “as a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans and we need to change that.”

The number of legal immigrants has grown rapidly since 1965, when lawmakers eased restrictionist laws that had been in place for four decades that largely shut down immigration from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

Trump’s chief policy aide, Stephen Miller, argued that the system has grown unwieldy, flooding the country with low-skilled workers who drive down wages for Americans of all racial backgrounds, including other immigrants who are already here.

Miller sparred with a reporter Wednesday at the daily White House briefing over the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty. He argued that the famous poem by Emma Lazarus was “added later” and thus did not define the U.S. immigration system as offering protection to the “poor” and “huddled masses.”

“If you look at the history of immigration, it actually ebbed and flowed,” Miller said. “There were periods of large waves followed by periods of less immigration.”

The legislation was quickly denounced by congressional Democrats, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and immigrant rights groups. It is also likely to face resistance from some business leaders and moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.

Opponents of the bill said that immigrants help boost the economy and that studies have shown they commit crimes at lower levels than do native-born Americans.

“This is just a fundamental restructuring of our immigration system which has huge implications for the future,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies. “This is part of a broader strategy by this administration to rid the country of low-skilled immigrants they don’t favor in favor of immigrants in their image.”

Perdue and Cotton said their proposal is modeled after “merit-based” immigration systems in Canada and Australia that also use point systems. But those countries admit more than twice the number of immigrants to their countries as the United States does now when judged as a percentage of overall population levels.

“Just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean you’re necessarily more valuable to the U.S. economy,” said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy. “The best indication of whether a person is employable is if someone wants to hire them.”

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, wrote that the bill “would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing.”

Cuts to legal immigration levels, including some of the same groups targeted in the ­Cotton-Perdue bill, were included in a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that was backed by President Barack Obama and approved on a bipartisan basis in the Senate.

But that bill, which died in the GOP-controlled House, would have offered a path to citizenship to an estimated 8 million immigrants living in the country illegally and cleared a green-card waiting list of 4 million foreigners.

Groups that favor stricter immigration policies hailed the ­legislation as a step in the right direction. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said the Raise Act “will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump’s promises as a candidate to create an immigration system that puts the interests of American workers first.”

John Wagner contributed to this report. 

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, second from right, pose for photographs with the University of Utah ski team during an event with NCAA championship teams at the White House.
President Trump visits the U.S. Capitol to meet with Republicans on the day the House will be voting on its tax bill.
Trump speaks about his Asia trip in the diplomatic reception room of the White House.
President Trump receives a bomber jacket from Air Force personnel during an event at Yokota Air Base at Fussa, near Tokyo.
Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold up hats they have both signed that read “Donald and Shinzo, Make Alliance Even Greater” at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan.
Trump and Abe meet with their wives Melania Trump and Akie Abe for a dinner at a restaurant in Tokyo.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, accompanied by Adm. Harry Harris, left, and his wife Bruni Bradley, throw flower pedals while visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii.
First lady Melania Trump listens as President Trump speaks with reporters at the White House before departing from the South Lawn in Marine One for a trip to Asia.
President Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose for a photo with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family during Halloween celebrations at the White House.
Trump departs in his motorcade after an afternoon at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va.
President Trump hands out candy to children of journalists and White House staffers for Halloween in the Oval Office.
Trump holds up a presidential memorandum to declare the opioid crisis a national public-health emergency after signing it at the White House.
President Trump takes questions from reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on his way to Marine One before departing for Texas to attend a briefing on hurricane relief efforts.
President Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pose with winners from the National Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards Program in the Oval Office of the White House.
A protester throws Russian flags as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), center left, walks with President Trump to the Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill.
Trump bestows the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor, to retired Army Capt. Gary M. Rose, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Trump and Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, shake hands during a joint statement in the Rose Garden.
Boeing Executive Vice President Kevin McAllister, right, and Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong, along with Trump and Singapore Prime Minister Loong, attend a signing ceremony for airplane sales at the White House.
Trump, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and national security adviser H.R. McMaster by his side, shakes hands with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in the Oval Office.
Trump, center right, and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico, center left, and others meet in the Oval Office.
Trump, right, listens as Rosselló speaks in the Oval Office.
Trump, flanked by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), speaks during a meeting with members of the Senate Finance Committee and members of his economic team in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
Trump waits at the West Wing of the White House for the arrival of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Trump meets with Tsipras in the Oval Office.
Trump answers a reporter’s question during a news conference with Tsipras in the White House Rose Garden.
Trump talks with Hope Hicks, White House communications director, between radio interviews at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
Trump makes a statement on Iran policy in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, speaks to the news media on the South Lawn of the White House.
Trump prepares to hand the pen he used to sign an executive order on health care to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
Trump congratulates Kirstjen Nielsen after nominating her to be secretary of homeland security in the East Room of the White House.
Trump shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, left, and first lady Melania Trump look on from the Oval Office of the White House.
Trump speaks in Middletown, Pa.
Trump honors the NHL’s Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Room of the White House.
Trump departs Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va.
Trump speaks at a Hispanic Heritage Month event in the East Room of the White House as Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, left, first lady Melania Trump and Treasurer Jovita Carranza listen.
Trump holds up the signed National Manufacturing Day Proclamation in the Oval Office.
Trump speaks during a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House.
Trump speaks as he and the first lady meet with first responders at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Trump talks with residents during a walking tour with the first lady in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
Trump makes a statement about the mass shooting in Las Vegas from the Diplomatic Room at the White House.
Trump speaks to the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington.
Trump stops to greet people as he walks from the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.
Trump takes a group photo with members of the National Security Council on the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.
Trump shakes hands with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy during a meeting in the Oval Office.
Trump and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hold a joint a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Trump speaks before signing a memorandum to expand access to STEM, science technology engineering and math, education, in the Oval Office.
Trump greets Sen. Luther Strange at a campaign rally for the Republican in Huntsville, Ala.
Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Palace Hotel in New York.
Trump arrives with first lady Melania Trump, right, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Trump speaks during the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Trump encourages Frank “FX” Giaccio, left, as his father, Greg Giaccio, looks on while he mows the lawn in the Rose Garden of the White House. Trump accepted Giaccio’s offer after he wrote to the president saying it would be an “honor to mow the White House lawn.”
The Trumps and Vice President Pence tour Naples Estates, an area in Florida damaged by Hurricane Irma.
The Trumps participate in a moment of silence at the White House in remembrance of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis greet members of the military after a Sept. 11 memorial service at the Pentagon.
The Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, and Trump hold translation earphones as a reporter asks a question at a news conference in the East Room of the White House.
Trump and Pence meet with House and Senate leaders at the White House.
Trump speaks alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as they hold a meeting about tax overhaul in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Trump waves as he departs St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington with first lady Melania Trump after they attended services for a national “Day of Prayer” for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Assistant rector D. Andrew Olivo is at center.
Trump gives a little girl a kiss as he and the first lady greet Harvey evacuees in Houston.
The first lady and the vice president look on as the president holds up a FEMA damage-assessment map of Texas.
Trump holds up the Texas state flag after receiving a briefing on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts at a fire station where people gathered to welcome him in Corpus Christi.
Trump shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during their joint news conference in Washington.
Trump shows his signature after signing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act into law at the American Legion convention in Reno, Nev.
Trump participates in a tour of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Yuma, Ariz.
Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, looks up toward the solar eclipse without glasses from a balcony at the White House.
At the White House, Trump displays a memorandum he signed addressing China’s trade practices.
At his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., Trump speaks about the violent protests in Charlottesville, that turned deadly.
Trump attends a workforce-development discussion at his club in Bedminster, N.J. From left: senior adviser Jared Kushner, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the president, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, aide Andrew Bremberg and Ivanka Trump.
Trump speaks to reporters after meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and national security adviser H.R. McMaster in Bedminster.
Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, center, talk with a patient via a tablet during the “telehealth” event.
Trump, flanked by Sens. Tom Cotton (R- Ark.), left, and David Perdue (R-Ga.), speaks in the Roosevelt Room during the unveiling of legislation that would place new limits on legal immigration.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Trump shake hands after Kelly’s private swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office.
Police applaud a line by Trump during remarks about his proposed government effort against the MS-13 gang at a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officials in Brentwood, N.Y.
Trump presents the Medal of Valor to U.S. Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner during the ceremony honoring first responders at the shooting that took place during a Republican baseball team practice in Alexandria, Va.
Trump greets, from left, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Vice President Pence, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Terry Gou, chief executive of Foxconn, in the East Room of the White House after announcing the first U.S. assembly plant for the electronics giant.
Trump and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri walk to the Rose Garden of the White House for a joint news conference.
Trump waves to the Boy Scout troops and leaders assembled at the group’s national jamboree in West Virginia.
Trump and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), second from left, stand for the colors during the commissioning ceremony of the “supercarrier” USS Gerald R. Ford in Norfolk.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: President Donald Trump greets others during a meeting with survivors of the attack on USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, July 21, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Photo Gallery: A look at the second half, so far, of the president?s first year in the White House.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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Post Politics

Trump, GOP senators introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels

By David Nakamura

August 3, 2017 at 12:50 AM

Watch more!
President Trump announced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act on Aug. 2, which aims to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards granted per year. (The Washington Post)

President Trump on Wednesday endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels in half over a decade, a potentially profound change to policies that have been in place for more than half a century.

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