U.S. President Donald Trump has announced a huge shake-up of immigration laws that would halve legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years by slashing family reunification visas, prioritizing English-speakers and cutting the number of refugees allowed into the country.
Promoted by the White House senior adviser Stephen Miller as a so-called “pro-American immigration reform,” the new bill – known as the RAISE Act – would prioritize high-skilled immigrants by setting up a merits-based system similar to those used by Canada and Australia while also doing away with green card preferences to the adult children or extended family of immigrants who already reside legally in the U.S.
"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.
The bill was developed by Republican senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and resembles the demands pushed for years by the so-called “nativist” anti-immigration lobby in the United States, such as the English language proficiency requirement and putting an end to the Diversity Visa Program.
The bill would also stop immigrants from joining family members already living in the U.S. – which nativists refer to as “chain migration.”
“Once you get here, you have a green card and you can open up immigration not just to your immediate family, but your extended family, your village, your clan, your tribe,” Cotton has said about the reunification process.
Refugee organizations said permanently limiting the number of refugees allowed in the country goes against the U.S. value of offering safe haven to people fleeing violence and oppression.
Trump had claimed at an event in New York's Long Island on Friday, where he spoke out against violence committed by Central American gang members, that immigrants today are different than in previous generations and no longer work hard or pay their taxes.
“The RAISE Act represents a stealth attack on our immigration system that would begin to unravel the reforms of 52 years ago, when Congress discarded a racist quota system that discriminated against people who weren’t white and northern European,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement. “Its provisions reflect the shameful agenda of nativists and white nationalists who fear the growing diversity of our country.”
“We’re not surprised that this bill has gained the support of President Trump, who has welcomed allies of the white nationalist movement into his administration, issued a Muslim ban, and called Mexican immigrants rapists and killers,” the SPLC added.
NumbersUSA President Roy Beck hailed the bill and said that it "will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump's promises as a candidate."
Cotton has previously spoken of coordinating with members of the Trump administration such as chief strategist Steve Bannon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Julie Kirchner, an ombudsman for the Citizenship and Immigration Services branch of the Department of Homeland Security who formerly headed the Federation for American Immigration Reform, FAIR – a group classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.”
Groups like FAIR and Numbers USA have both heavily pushed for slashing legal immigration and have lobbied in support of the bill, which they claim adopts a so-called “merit-based system” rather than an immigration system pushed by “ethnic special interests.”
Both groups were founded either directly or indirectly by John Tanton, a white nationalist who has ties to neo-Nazi organizations. In 1993, the eugenics proponent argued that a "European-American majority" was needed “for European-American society and culture to persist."