President Trump will join Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas at the White House Wednesday to unveil legislation that proposes a skills-based immigration system and seeks an overall lower level of legal immigration, two sources have confirmed to the Washington Examiner.
Officials stopped short of saying Trump would endorse the bill on Wednesday. However, the White House has been pushing for a bill that matches some of the goals that are expected to be in the new bill from Perdue and Cotton.
White House policy director Stephen Miller has reportedly been meeting with Senate Republicans in pursuit of ways to lower legal immigration.
If Trump were to endorse it, that would mark the beginning of a push toward a radically different legal immigration policy in the United States compared to the one that's been in place for the past several decades. Today's system often benefits family members of current U.S. residents, but Perdue and Cotton are pushing for a change that would force the U.S. to weigh the skill sets of potential candidates, and favor those with more skills.
It's also a push toward the other controversial goal of reducing legal immigration. The U.S. lets in more than 1 million people each year legally, but some Republicans have said that number hurts American citizens by pushing down their wages, and making it harder for them to find work in their own country, since they face competition from unskilled workers who are willing to work for less.
This represents a different approach to immigration reform than has been championed by some other Republicans, such as Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, most recently in the 2013 "Gang of Eight" bill.
Perdue and Cotton have called for a return to "historic" levels of permanent legal immigration. A top Senate aide with knowledge of the bill described the new plan as something that would raise U.S. workers' wages, create jobs and make the economy more competitive.
Both senators have criticized the current immigration system in which just a small percentage of immigrants come to the U.S. because of their skills. The new system will prioritize high-skilled immigrants and match applicants depending on how they fit the workforce's current needs.
In February, the GOP senators rolled out the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act, which included methods for cutting and reforming legal immigration avenues in ways that benefit the U.S. economy. The bill stalled in the Senate, but Trump said he supported its ideas.
The new legislation will be similar to the original bill and focus on changing the legal immigration process. The old bill proposed cutting legal immigration 1 million people per year to nearly half that amount.
"It's like adding the population of Montana every year, or the population of Arkansas every three," Cotton said in February. "Only 1 of every 15" green cards granted are for work purposes.
The old legislation also included plans to rescind the diversity lottery and cap annual refugee admittances at 50,000, which would fall in line with average numbers during George W. Bush and Barack Obama's administrations.