On Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump unveiled controversial legislation aimed at reducing legal immigration in the United States. Joined by Eudora Welty caricatures Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), Trump rolled out the RAISE Act (for Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy) which would cut the number of legal migrants entering the U.S. by roughly half.
The RAISE Act, Trump said, “ends chain migration and replaces our low-skill system with a points-based system for receiving a green card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.” Put plainly, the bill would drastically reduce the number of green cards, eliminate the diversity lottery meant for countries who do not traditionally send a large number of immigrants to the United States, and reduce the number of eligible refugees to roughly half of its current number. In addition, the bill would also prevent new immigrants from collecting welfare.
Trump couched the Cotton-Perdue sponsored bill in the familiar language of resentment, arguing that such drastic measures “will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.” Trump said that our current immigration system “has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.” “They’re not going to come in and immediately go and collect welfare,” Trump added, relying again on the ugly stereotypes of immigrants as either lazy or dangerous that has regularly recycled since his campaign.
Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric was reiterated by Cotton who offered the same populist frame that said little but implied quite a lot. The current system, Cotton said, is a “symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans,” adding that our current immigration policies “great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and feet.” According to Cotton’s estimates, the RAISE Act would reduce the number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States by 50 percent over a ten-year period.
But the RAISE Act seems to address a problem that doesn’t actually exist. The plan, as NPR reports, is “opposed by business groups, which rely on low-skilled workers for agriculture and other jobs. And economists point to the low unemployment rate, 4.4 percent last month, as evidence that there are relatively few Americans who are without jobs now, and that, as Baby Boomers retire, there will be a labor shortage.” Despite the opposition, the bill fits firmly into Trump’s campaign promises to curb immigration. He promised that the bill will “help to ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American dream.”
Shortly after the Trump rolled out the bill, Senator Chuck Schumer said that the bill was a “non-starter.” “The bottom line is to cut immigration by half a million people—legal immigration—doesn’t make much sense,” Schumer said. “This is different than illegal immigration. It creates jobs in America. It helps America.”