Trump Announces Support For Immigration Reform Favoring English-Speaking, High-Skilled Workers

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP)President Donald Trump is endorsing what he calls “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century.”

As the White House’s “American Dream Week” continued Wednesday, the president said the policy will protect American workers, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported.

“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first,” Trump said Wednesday.

The president has made cracking down on illegal immigration a hallmark of his administration and has tried to slash federal grants for cities that refuse to comply with federal efforts to detain and deport those living in the country illegally.

But he has also vowed to make changes to the legal immigration system, arguing that immigrants compete with Americans for much-needed jobs and drive wages down.

Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) proposed the legislation, which would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency — or green cards — by creating a skills-base point system for employment visas.

The system would favor those who can speak English, have high-paying job offers, can financially support themselves and offer skills that would contribute to the U.S. economy.

“The RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare and protects U.S. workers from being displaced,” Trump said.

The bill would also eliminate the preference for U.S. residents’ extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children.

“It’s apparently a move away from the family values of using immigration to unite families,” Human Rights Initiative of North Texas Executive Director Bill Holston said.

The bill would also aim to slash the number of refugees in half and eliminate a program that provides visas to countries with low rates of immigration.

Cotton told reporters the bill would double the number of green cards available to high-skilled workers and would not affect other high or low-skilled worker visa programs such as H1-B and H2-B visas. A little more than 1 million green cards were issued in 2015.

The White House said that only 1 in 15 immigrants comes to the U.S. because of their skills, and the current system fails to place a priority on highly skilled immigrants.

The Pew Research Center said in 2015 that 41 percent of immigrants who had arrived in the past five years held a college degree, much higher than the 30 percent of non-immigrants in the United States. A stunning 18 percent held an advanced degree, also much higher than the U.S. average.

The Senate has largely ignored the measure, with no other lawmaker signing on as a co-sponsor. GOP leaders have showed no inclination to vote on immigration this year, and Democrats quickly dismissed it.

“The bottom line is to cut immigration by half a million people, legal immigration, doesn’t make much sense,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called it a “nonstarter.”

Some immigrant advocates have criticized the proposal, saying that slashing legal immigration would hurt industries like agriculture and harm the economy.

“Our system is broken, but the response should be to modernize it, not take a sledgehammer to it,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a group of business leaders, mayors and others backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that advocates for comprehensive immigration reform.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement the bill would “end programs known to be rife with fraud and abuse and finally improve the vetting process, making our country–and working-class wages–much safer and stronger.”

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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