On Wednesday, President Trump threw his weight behind a bill that would slash legal immigration to the United States in half within a decade.
While the proposal isn’t likely to gain enough traction to pass into law, the commander-in-chief’s support showcases the latest item on the administration increasingly anti-immigration agenda.
The effort, introduced to Congress by Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-GA), would provide easier entrance to foreigners with in-demand skills and English language proficiency.
Under the current system, most legal immigrants enter the United States on visas granted to the blood relatives of citizens and permanent residents. Cotton and Perdue’s bill would cut down visa allowances for family members, in line with a similar proposal supported by former President George W. Bush in 2007.
According to The New York Times, more than one million people obtain permanent legal residency yearly. The Senate proposal would bring that figure down by 41% in the first year after implementation and 50% by its 10th.
Despite the sharp decline in annual admissions, Cotton and Perdue hope to keep the number of immigrants offered visas due to job skills and education roughly the same: approximately 140,000 per year.
In 2014, an estimated 64% of all immigrants granted legal residency were ‘immediate relatives of American citizens or sponsored by family members.’
Only 15% entered America after attracting the specific interest of an employer.
Taking the statistics into consideration, the Times is quick to point out that a family-based admission doesn’t necessarily translate to a low-skill or uneducated entry.
The Republican senators’ plan would award aspiring migrants ‘points’ based on criteria like education, English-language proficiency, and entrepreneurial acumen. While the spouses and minor children of foreign workers would be allowed to accompany them Stateside, concessions would be cut for brothers, sisters and grown-up kids.
Ailing and ill parents seeking refuge with their adult children in America would be awarded a temporary and renewable classification of visa, which would expire once their health improves to a point they can reasonably return home.
President Trump offered his take on the current system Wednesday, saying, “It has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.”
Adding on to that, he said Perdue and Cotton’s plan “would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century.”
One of the President’s top aides, Stephen Miller, said the bill could be cast as “the largest proposed reform to our immigration policy” in fifty years.
“This is what President Trump campaigned on. He talked about it throughout the campaign, throughout the transition, and since coming into office,” Miller said. “This is a major promise to the American people to push for merit-based immigration reform that protects US workers, and protects the US economy, and that prioritizes the needs of our own citizens, our own residents and our workers.”
However, some statistics cast doubt on Miller’s America-first rhetoric.
A recent survey from Pew Research Center showed that, as of 2015, a slim majority of all foreign-born U.S. residents had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2010, the trend had skewed the opposite way, with the difference being more drastic for every decade in the past half-century.
Cotton and Perdue’s fantastical plan for immigration might be the greatest policy overhaul in 50 years, but it would come at a steep price – slowing down the entry of foreign workers who raise American wages and are proportionately better-educated than their citizen counterparts.