Two Republican senators took up the baton for populist immigration reform Tuesday when they announced their Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE Act, designed to raise wages for ordinary Americans, restore legacy immigration levels, and reset family and worker visa programs.
“We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system—returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages,” said Georgia’s Sen. David A. Perdue Jr., who served on the chamber’s Judiciary Committee and was one the first and foremost Senate supporters of President Donald J. Trump’s campaign. Perdue was joined by Arkansas Sen. Thomas B. Cotton, his co-sponsor.
“This is a first step,” Perdue said. “It is not a sweeping, comprehensive attempt to solve all legal immigration problems, nor does it address illegal issues. We are simply trying today to bring a rational, compassionate approach to this issue inside the immigration conversation.”
The bill is not a rejection of immigration, which is an important part of the country’s heritage, he said. “But, we see the records and we see the data and we see wages being absolutely depressed because of the supply of low-skilled workers.”
A Capitol Hill source close to Perdue told Breitbart News that the senator is motivated by the president’s attention to the immigration crisis, especially when it comes to eliminating the so-called “diversity lottery” visa program and other outdated programs.
Cotton said he spoke to the president about the general outlines of the bill during the campaign and that morning.
While he would not say that Trump endorsed the bill, he was clear that it is in line with the president’s priorities, and he and Perdue have an ongoing partnership with the White House staff.
The Army Ranger veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq said his bill with Perdue takes the number of legal immigrants from million to 500,000 per year without addressing the employment-based immigration programs.
Cotton said this bill makes it a simple matter of supply and demand.
“There has been a generation’s-long decline in blue collar wages,” he said. “The natural effect of having low-skills and no-skills workers in this country is going to be a tighter labor market that is going to put more upward pressure on wages of working folks.”
The RAISE Act shuts chain-migration, so siblings, parents, and other members of a legal immigrant’s extended family are no longer automatically waved into the country, he said. However, the bill does allow for temporary visas for elderly parents, who are not coming to America to work or go on public assistance.
Cotton had to repeatedly tell reporters that the bill is designed to primarily help American. “Our immigration system should focus on what is good for American citizens–and if parents and siblings or adult children or their spouses have the skills that they need to succeed in our economy and contribute, then they can come in through other employment-based programs.”
Cotton said the bill is focused on the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that remains the country’s framework. “We are looking for a more rational system.”
The Arkansas senator said that the immigration laws between 1924 and 1965 were too restrictive and there was a need in 1965 to open things up, especially given the record of America’s handling a refugees in the 1920s and 1930s.
“Overall, you will see a reduction in the number of immigrants, but you may see an increase in other categories, where there is an empirical and demonstrated need for more immigrant labor–particularly among the skilled and the ultra-high skilled,” he said.
Watch the Perdue-Cotton press conference here: