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How a Trump-endorsed overhaul would dramatically change U.S. immigration

August 2, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
A bill proposed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and endorsed by President Trump would cut in half the number of people legally allowed into the United States, and mark a profound shift in American policy in place for a half century. Alan Gomez of USA Today joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what the change could mean for future job growth.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: It is a call to overhaul immigration. President Trump endorsed today new legislation from Republican Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas that would cut in half the number of people allowed in the nation legally, marking a profound shift in policies that have been in place for half-a-century.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skilled immigration system, issuing record numbers of green cards to low-wage immigrants. And it has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, fiercely defended the policy change at a White House briefing today.

STEPHEN MILLER, Senior White House Adviser: This is a reality that is happening in our country. Maybe it’s time we had compassion, Glenn, for American workers. President Trump has met with American workers who have been replaced by foreign workers.

Ask them, ask them how this has affected their lives.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With us now to explain the proposed legislation is Alan Gomez, reporter for USA Today who covers immigration. He joins me now from Miami.

Alan, welcome back to the program.

So, how does this proposal differ from current law?

ALAN GOMEZ, USA Today: Basically, what this proposal would do is completely upend the way that the U.S. accepts immigrants.

Right now, about 63 percent of green cards that are given to foreigners are given based on their family ties. In other words, they have somebody here in the U.S. that sponsors them, and they’re able to get that green card.

What they want to do, what President Trump and Senators Cotton and Perdue are proposing is switching to a system more like Canada, where it’s more based on their economic contributions and how they can contribute to the economy of the country. In Canada, it’s the complete opposite. About 63 percent of the visas — green cards that are given there are based on those economic ties.

So they want to implement a points-based system, where we rank would-be immigrants based on their education, their technical experience, their job experience, and make our immigration system more focused on what they can do for this country, rather than just having family ties.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, practically, what would the changes be?

ALAN GOMEZ: Right.

It would be incredibly — it’s hard to overestimate just what a drastic change this would be. So, right now, if you’re a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor your children, your spouse, your parents, your brothers, your sisters.

What this program, what this proposal would do would limit is, it would limit it to only your spouse and only your minor children. So that would drastically reduce your opportunities to bring your relatives into the United States. And, again, on the economics — so all those folks could still be eligible to come in, but they would have to pass that test.

They would have to go through that screening process that examines their ability to contribute immediately to the U.S. economy and favors people with higher educations, with Ph.D.s, with Master’s degrees and those kinds.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And very quickly, in just a word, what are the prospects of this becoming law?

ALAN GOMEZ: Not very good.

Senator Cotton introduced this bill back in February. It hasn’t even gotten a committee hearing. And we heard opposition today from immigrants, from Democrats, and even some Republicans who thought it went too far.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Alan Gomez with USA Today, we thank you.

ALAN GOMEZ: Thank you.

Editor’s Note: Alan Gomez incorrectly stated that grandparents and cousins can be sponsored under current law. We’ve changed the text to reflect the correction.

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