U.S. President Donald Trump has now turned his attention to reducing the number of legal immigrants in the country. President Trump threw his support behind a Senate bill that that would cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years by reducing the kinds of relatives immigrants can bring into the country.
The bill aims to end the diversity visa lottery, which allows 50,000 people from underrepresented countries to obtain green cards. It also sets a 50,000 annual cap on refugees, instead of a level mandated by the president.
Refugee organizations said permanently limiting number of refugees allowed in the country goes against an American value of offering safe haven to people fleeing violence and oppression.
The legislation would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards, creating a skills-based point system for employment visas. The bill would also eliminate the preference for U.S. residents' extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children.
Trump joined with Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas to promote the bill, which has so far gained little traction in the Senate. But the legislation faces an uphill climb to get through Congress where some senior Republicans back comprehensive immigration reform, not a tough crackdown.
Trump suggested 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.
"What happened to the old days when people came into this country and they worked and they worked and they worked and they had families and paid taxes and they did all sorts of things and their families got stronger and they were closely knit?" Trump asked the audience of law enforcement officers. "We don't see that."
Trump and the Republican lawmakers blasted the current immigration system as out of date and argued that it hurts American workers by driving down wages.
"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 Senators said they worked closely with the White House on this latest version of their bill. "This is probably our third or fourth visit to the Oval Office to work with President Trump," Cotton told reporters.
Slashing legal immigration has long been pushed by low-immigration advocacy groups in Washington like NumbersUSA and the ideas have been backed by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is now facing public criticism from Trump.