Congress Moves to Cut Immigration to U.S. By Half

New bill would limit the number of refugees, lower total immigration levels

Syria refugee camp in Lebanon
Syria refugee camp in Lebanon / AP
February 7, 2017

Leading senators on Tuesday unveiled landmark immigration reform legislation that would limit the number of refugees permitted into the United States each year and eventually cut total immigration to America by 50 percent, according to a preview of the legislation viewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sens. David Perdue (R., Ga.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) revealed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, which aims to boost wages for Americans by slicing immigration levels and recalibrating the system to accommodate those seeking employment in the American workforce.

The legislation seeks to build upon President Donald Trump’s immigration vision and his recent executive order placing a temporary hold on immigration for individuals coming from several countries designated as primary terrorism hotspots.

The bill would cap the number of permanent refugees permitted in the United States to 50,000 per year, which the lawmakers say is in line with average numbers during the past 13 years.

Within its first year of implementation, the immigration plan would reduce the number of individuals granted legal status by 41 percent and then steadily rise to a 50 percent reduction by its tenth year, according to a statistic provided by the senators and based on models established by Princeton and Harvard professors.

Overall immigration would be lowered to 637,960 within the first year of implementation and to 539,958 by year 10, according to these models. This would account for a 50 percent reduction over 2015 levels, which topped out at 1,051,031, according to information provided by the lawmakers.

"We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system," Perdue said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "Returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages."

The goal of the legislation is to shift the immigration system in the favor of skilled workers. The net benefit of this recalibration would be to the advantage of all American workers with lower-skilled jobs, the lawmakers maintain.

Employment-based visas would become the main priority under the new plan.

Deference would be given to family households seeking to immigrate to the United States, according to the legislation, which would favor the spouses and minor-aged children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Immigration priority would no longer be given to the extended family and adult family members of U.S. residents under the bill. This means that adult parents and siblings of current citizens would no longer receive preferential treatment.

The bill additionally would eliminate the contested visa lottery system, which allowed individuals from any country around the world an equal shot at obtaining a U.S. visa in an expedited manner.

The 50,000 visa slots allocated under the program would be eliminated and folded back into the larger immigration system, according to the bill. The lawmakers maintain that the lottery system is outdated and beset by fraud.

The legislation also would move to create a temporary visa program for elderly parents or those in need of caretaking. This would allow citizens to more easily bring a parent into the country.

Under the new legislation, an elderly parent eligible for a U.S. visa would not be permitted to work or access any public benefits.