The national immigration system isn't working for working Americans, but Sen. Tom Cotton said Tuesday he hopes to change that through legislation he's introducing in hopes of cutting the number of green cards being issued by about half.
"In the last several decades, people work who work with their hands and on their feet haven't had a pay raise, especially if they have a high school diploma or less," the Arkansas Republican, who is introducing his immigration legislation along with Rep. David Perdue, R-Georgia, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
The number of immigrants coming in is on the rise, he continued, and as that is causing problems for the nation's lower-income workers, Cotton said his legislation will reform the green card system while refocusing on nuclear family reunification.
"This legislation doesn't touch employment-based immigration at all, but simply tries to get a handle on a million immigrants coming here a year," said Cotton "It simply tries to get a handle on a million immigrants coming here a year. Virtually none of him are coming based on employment, skills or demonstrated economic need."
The legislation, said Cotton, focuses more on immediate family members and high-skilled individuals who can come to the United States and help its economy, and looks to limit green card sponsorships to direct members of a sponsor's family and hopes to specify higher-skilled workers.
"It's kind of like the point system immigration policy that Australia and Canada is based on," said Cotton.
"We should admit people into our country who are world class athletes, whether they're competing in sports or Olympics, or world class scientists or senior executives who are making hundreds of thousands of or millions of dollars," Cotton told Fox News' "Fox & Friends," where he also gave an interview on his plans for the bill.
"What I'm worried of is we've been bringing in low skilled workers who have been hindering wages for a long time."
The move puts Cotton into a Senate now being held by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, who will be vacating his seat once his confirmation is finalized for attorney general this week, reports Politico.
Sessions has often called for limiting legal immigration in favor of American citizens, and Cotton told Politico that President Donald Trump saw Americans don't like the current immigration policy.
"This is just the area of politics where I think leaders and elites are most disconnected from the people, not just Republicans but in both parties, in business, in the media, in the academy, culture and so forth," said Cotton, commenting that he's spoken with administration officials and they have been receptive to his eyebrows.
The Cotton/Perdue legislation slashes green cards by taking away the current method of allowing permanent residents and citizens to sponsor members of their extended families for green cards, instead allowing them to only seek documents for their spouses and unmarried minor children.
The legislation would allow for visas for aging adult parents, which Cotton said would not boost numbers by much.
The new bill also would stop a diversity visa lottery that brings in about 50,000 visas a year and limits refugees to 50,000 annually.
If the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) passes, it will cut green cards by 40 percent over the first year and another 50 percent over a decade.
Meanwhile, Cotton declined to comment to Politico over whether he wants to expand the number of H-1B visas allotted per year for high skilled workers, such as in the tech industry.
"There are obviously abuses of the H-1B visa program," said Cotton. "I think those abuses need to be addressed before we even consider expanding the program.
"That said, if the evidence demonstrates that say, software companies need PhDs with computer science degrees and they're going to pay them a wage that's in the top 1, top 5, top 10 percent of local wages, I'm open to that kind of evidence."
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