President Donald Trump on Wednesday threw his support behind Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia)’s  “Raise Act,” an Immigration Reform Bill that would see numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S. reduced in half.

The Raise Act is a pro-American, merit-based Immigration Bill aimed at curbing the traditional pipeline of non-skilled immigrants and that rewarded extended families by giving preference to English-speaking migrants with demonstrated job skills.

Immigration reform is the biggest centrepiece of the Trump Administration and a major campaign promise.  Democrats together with Immigrant Rights groups have vowed to resist, calling any move to reform the broken system a“racist” and “white nationalist” discriminatory proposal.

The bill will prevent immigrants from accessing social assistance (welfare) and replace the employment visa system which relies heaviy on  businesses to pick low-skilled labour with a skills-based system where the government will play a bigger role in selecting prospective immigrants based on their individual merits.

In what he framed as “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” President Trump wants to reform a broken immigration system which has remained unchanged for more than half a century.

The “competitive application process will favour applicants who can speak English…are financially able to support themselves and their families” and must demonstrate employable skills that will contribute to the economy.

One of the impacts of the pro-American Immigration Reform Bill will be a reduction in the number of refugees admitted into the country, from 110,00 per year under Barack Obama to only 50,000.

The Raise Act will eliminate the State Department’s controversial Diversity Immigrant Visa Program which is a lottery programme that grants about 50,000 people Permanent Resident status to live in the U.S. permanently.

President Trump walks to the podium at the White House to endorse the Raise Act, an Immigration Reform Bill, Wednesday 2 August, 2017. Credit: Getty Images

The proposal will also stop issuing Green Card preferences to adult children and extended family members of immigrants who are already in the country legally.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, an estimated 1,051,031 immigrants were granted Permanent Residency status in 2015.   Under the reformed Bill, this number woud be slashed to 500,000 Green Cards per year.

“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first,” said Trump, adding that it would “restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens.”

The current immigration system is “an obsolete disaster” in which only 1 immigrant in 15 comes to the U.S. because of job skills, said Mr. Cotton.  “I think it’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans,” he added.

The proposed system proposed would reward education, English-language ability, high-paying job offers, achievements and entrepreneurial initiative with the White House saying it would be similar to the merit-based immigration systems used by Canada and Australia.

President Trump with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (L) and David Perdue (R) endorsing Immigration Reform Bill on Wednesday 2 August, 2017. Credit: AP

According to the bill, priority will be given to immediate family members of U.S. residents such as spouses and minor children but would end preferences for adult children and extended family members.

Green Cards are issued to those immigrants who are legal Permanent Residents to prove their status in the U.S.  Card holders then have an option to apply for U.S. Citizenship after five years, can sponsor relatives and at some point, they can have access to welfare benefits.

A random lottery system is used to award Permanent Visas to extended family members and business associates.

It wasn’t always that way.

From 1924 to 1965, the country imposed strict immigration limits, including nationality quotas, but granted exemptions to close family members and applicants with high skills or who were brought in to work in agriculture.

Congress decided to liberalize the policy in 1965, creating the framework for the modern system that focuses heavily on extended family ties. It also abolished national quotas.

The result was a system where about two-thirds of the Green Cards issued each year are for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and about 15 percent go to refugees and asylum-seekers. Another 15 percent go to employment-based applicants.  The remainder go to winners of the diversity visa lottery, established in 1990, which doles out green cards based on chance.

The goal was to give potential immigrants who don’t have family ties or job prospects a shot at making it to the U.S.

Speaking at the White House, the President together with the sponsors of the Bill said the legislation would be the biggest change to immigration policy in 50 years. His aides signaled that they expect it to be a major part of the national debate heading into midterm elections next year.

Stephen Miller who is the Senior Policy Advisor to President Trump suggested that the White House intends to make the proposal a campaign issue next year in congressional midterm elections.

Senior White House Advisor takes on CNN’s Jim Acosta during a heated exchange on the new pro-American immigration reform bill on Wednesday, August 2, 2017. Photo: The White House

“Ultimately, members of Congress will have a choice to make,” Mr. Miller said during the White House Press Briefing.  “They can either vote with the interests of U.S. citizens and U.S. workers, or they can vote against their interests, and whatever happens as a result of that, I think, would be somewhat predictable.”

Mr. Miller said polls consistently show that Americans favor immigration policy that requires new arrivals to speak English, prevents immigrants from displacing existing workers, bars immigrants from receiving welfare, requires them to have skills and reduces overall net migration.

“I do think that voters across the country are going to demand these kinds of changes,” he said. “The effect it has on their lives and their communities is overwhelmingly positive.”


Washington Times.

Edited by Manyika Review.

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