Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on Wednesday merit-based immigration "is not just about those who are coming, it's also about those who are here" after President Trump announced his support for a merit-based immigration system.
"This is not just about those who are coming, it's also about those who are here and those who are here will be more prosperous if an entrepreneur comes into their depressed community and creates a business which then creates thousands of jobs," Cassidy told CNN. "We have to consider not just those coming, but first those who are here. I think the president is doing that. I think that's the better way to go."
Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas put forward the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act, in February. The bill would create a merit-based point system giving priority to immigrants with certain skills instead of giving priority to those with family ties to U.S. citizens.
Trump announced on Wednesday his support for a revised version of the bill and said the application process would "favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy."
The bill would cut legal annual immigration to the U.S. by about half. Some Senate Democrats voiced opposition to the bill following the president's announcement at the White House.
"No. Our great country shouldn't become a country club. The story of America is to come here with nothing and build something," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said on Twitter Wednesday.
"Gutting legal immigration nothing more than a partisan ploy appealing to the racist & xenophobic instincts Trump encouraged during campaign," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Gutting legal immigration nothing more than a partisan ploy appealing to the racist & xenophobic instincts Trump encouraged during campaign. https://t.co/KJYrEOEF50— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) August 2, 2017
When asked if there would be enough votes to pass merit-based immigration legislation, Cassidy said he thought the proposal would be "well received" but was unsure about how Democrats would respond.
"I don't have a clear read on what Democrats would say about that, but we want folks who will make our economy more prosperous, and the folks that will are those that come with skill sets or with capital that can again create jobs for Americans who are already here," Cassidy said.
"That is the sweet spot in immigration policy. If the president advances that I would like to think there would be bipartisan support for that."