The bill — a revised version of an immigration-reform bill introduced in February — would change the system for granting legal residency, or green cards, by giving priority to high-skilled, English-speaking immigrants.
“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,” Trump said today at the White House alongside Cotton and Perdue.
Trump, who promised during his election campaign to reform the immigration system, argued that the bill, called the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, would replace “our low-skilled [immigration] system with a points-based system.”
“They’re not going to come in and immediately go and collect welfare,” he said.
Under a 1996 welfare reform bill signed by President Clinton, legal immigrants are already barred from receiving government benefits for five years or longer. Some exceptions include children and human trafficking victims who allowed to collect certain benefits.
The RAISE Act would establish a point-based system for issuing green cards and would give more points to people who are highly skilled — which, Trump suggested, would reduce the number of immigrants receiving government benefits.
“For some people, they may think that’s a symbol of America’s virtue and generosity,” Cotton said of the current immigration system. “I think it’s a symbol we’re not committed to working-class Americans. We need to change that.”
Trump, along the same lines, said the new legislation would lead to higher pay for American workers and “help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed and will achieve the American dream.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, 1,051,031 immigrants gained permanent residency in the United States in 2015.
It’s unclear when the Senate may take up the new legislation. The initial immigration reform bill was opposed by some Republicans and business groups and has been stalled in the Senate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already criticized the measure, saying it would hurt his state’s economy.
Some immigration reform advocates also disagree with the idea that the RAISE Act would contribute to better wages.