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Senators Cotton, Perdue unveil proposed immigration changes

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump joined Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. David Perdue to announce new legislation that would overhaul the immigration system.

According to a release from Cotton, the RAISE Act would establish a skills-based immigration system similar to the ones currently in place in Canada and Australia, which takes into account a person’s education, English-language abilities, age, and their personal achievements and initiatives, among other things.

It would effectively get rid of the visa lottery system, limit the number of permanent refugees and redefine a person’s family as their spouse and minor children.

“For decades our immigration system has been completely divorced from the needs of our economy, and working Americans’ wages have suffered as a result. Our legislation will set things right,” said Cotton. “We will build an immigration system that raises working wages, creates jobs, and gives every American a fair shot at creating wealth, whether your family came over on the Mayflower or just took the oath of citizenship.”

Trump said the proposed legislation would be the most significant change to the system in half a century. 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 new system would keep out people who will just end up collecting welfare, he said.

Trump 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.

The president’s appearance was aimed at bringing attention to the bill, which has been largely ignored in the Senate, with no other lawmaker signing on as a co-sponsor. GOP leaders have showed no inclination to vote on immigration this year.

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.