Two senators have introduced a legislation aiming to cut legal immigration, unlike others focussed on illegal immigration, to protect American jobs for Americans, specially those in the low-skilled and unskilled categories.
The legislation, which was moved by Senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue and has the backing of the Trump administration, also proposed to cut permanent residency (better known as green card) for refugees.
The bill “would limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year, in line with a 13-year average; not for other categories”, said a statement released by Cotton’s office announcing the introduction of the legislation.
It was not immediately clear if, and how, it would impact the 1.5 million Indians who came here mostly on H-1B visas for skilled workers and are now in line for their green cards, with waiting time expected to be anywhere from 10 to 35 years.
The Cotton-Perdue bill proposes to cut green cards only for refugees, not for those who arrived here on temporary work visas such as the H-1Bs, used by US firms to hire high-skilled foreign workers, each for a maximum period of six years.
The bill, called Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, aims to cut overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its 10th year, down 50% from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.
“It’s time our immigration system started working for American workers,” said Cotton, who is emerging as an immigration hawk in the mold of Senator Jeff Sessions, who is awaiting confirmation as Trump’s attorney general.
“The RAISE Act would promote higher wages on which all working Americans can build a future - whether your family came over here on the Mayflower or you just took the oath of citizenship.”
“We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system,” Perdue said, adding, “returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages.”
Cotton argued that the growth in legal immigration in recent decades had led to a “sharp decline in wages for working Americans” and that the bill represented an effort to move the US “to a more merit-based system like Canada and Australia”.
The RAISE Act would retain immigration preferences for the spouses and minor children of US citizens and legal permanent residents while eliminating preferences for certain categories of extended and adult family members.
It also proposes to eliminate diversity visa lottery.
“The diversity lottery is plagued with fraud, advances no economic or humanitarian interest, and does not even deliver the diversity of its namesake. The RAISE Act would eliminate the 50,000 visas arbitrarily allocated to this lottery,” it said. (With inputs from agencies)