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Trump backs GOP senators' bill to slash legal immigration

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump backs Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue's bill to limit legal immigration.
  • He says the measure would lead to a more "merit-based" system.
President Trump unveils new legal immigration proposal

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his support for two senators' proposal to curb legal immigration to the U.S.

Trump put his weight behind the effort at a White House event with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga.

The bill would aim to make job skills a priority for people to obtain legal permanent residency rather than family connections. It would also slash the number of refugees coming to the U.S.

The president's support for the legislation comes amid his stated push to crack down on illegal immigration and boost opportunities for American workers. As a candidate, he aimed to win over blue-collar areas with promises to encourage companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. and boost wages.

President Donald Trump speaks during an announcement on immigration reform accompanied by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) (L) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) (R), in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, August 2, 2017.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

Trump contended the changes in the bill would mark "the most significant reform to our immigration system in a half a century." He touted the changes as moving to a more "merit-based" immigration system. The president said the plan would "increase wages and save taxpayers billions."

Critics have argued that it could potentially cut off the flow of lower-skilled workers to key industries and harm the U.S. economy.

It is not clear if the proposal as it stands can make it through Congress. Some Republicans in the Senate may prove reluctant to the support the plan.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Wednesday contended the proposal would be "devastating" to his state's economy.

In promoting the bill, Cotton, a staunch conservative, called the U.S. immigration system an "obsolete disaster."