(CNSNews.com) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced legislation on immigration reform that changes the way green cards are issued to people who want permanent U.S. residency.
Instead of giving green cards to low-skilled immigrants, the RAISE act gives preference to high-skilled immigrants who speak English, can support themselves financially and will not collect welfare.
Flanked by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), the president said the bill fulfills a promise he campaigned on to create "a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers."
"The RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. It will do this by changing the way the United States issues Green Cards to nationals from other countries. Green Cards provide permanent residency, work authorization, and fast track to citizenship," the president said.
"The RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card. 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," he said.
In the past, the U.S. issued "record numbers of green cards to low wage immigrants" - a policy that "placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources," the president said. The policy adversely affected "minority workers competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals." It was also not fair to U.S. citizens or workers, he added.
"The RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare, and protects U.S. workers from being displaced, and that's a very big thing. They're not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare. That doesn’t happen under the RAISE Act. They can't do that. Crucially, the Green Card reforms in the RAISE Act will give American workers a pay raise by reducing unskilled immigration," Trump said.
The president said the RAISE Act will restore the United States' "competitive edge" as well as "the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens."
"This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first," he added.
Cotton said the U.S. immigration system "should accomplish two main goals: One, it should help American workers get a decent pay raise and have a higher standard of living. And, two, it should help promote economic growth to make America more competitive in the world.
"Our current system simply doesn’t do that. It's over a half-century old. It is an obsolete disaster, and it's time for it to change," Cotton said.
Over a million immigrants are brought into the U.S. annually, Cotton said. "That's like adding the population of Montana every single year; adding the population of Arkansas every three years."
"The vast majority of those workers -- or those immigrants come here not because of their English-language abilities or their job skills, or their job offer, or their educational attainment. In fact, only 1 in 15 -- only 1 in 15 out of a million new immigrants come here because of their job skills and their ability to succeed in this economy," Cotton pointed out.
"That means it puts great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and work on their feet. Now, for some people, they may think that that's a symbol of America's virtue and generosity. I think it's a symbol that we're not committed to working-class Americans, and we need to change that," he said.
"Second, we also lose out on the very best talent coming to our country -- the most ultra, high-skilled immigrants who can come here and bring their entrepreneurial spirit and their innovative capabilities, and make a higher wage, create new jobs for other Americans and new immigrants, speak English, and contribute to our economy, and stand on their own two feet, and pay taxes, and not receive welfare, and not drive down wages for working-class Americans," Cotton said.
The RAISE Act will give preference to immigrants "who have high degrees of educational attainment, who have a job offer that pays more, and a typical job in their local economy, who are going to create a new business, and who are outstanding in their field around the world," Cotton added.
Perdue, the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress, said "nothing that we’re going to do right now is more important than this in terms of growing our economy."
"The reason we need to do this is very simple: Our current system does not work. It keeps America from being competitive, and it does not meet the needs of our economy today," Perdue said.
The RAISE Act is modeled after Canada's and Australia's immigration systems.
"We took a look at best practices. We looked at countries like Canada, Australia, and others. What we're introducing today is modeled on the current Canadian and Australian systems. It's pro-worker, it's pro-growth, and it's been proven to work. Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers to those countries," Perdue said.