Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton met with President Trump on Tuesday, March 7th to discuss their plan to fundamentally dismantle the Family-Based immigration system. The two senators are sponsoring the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, a new piece of legislation which would get rid of most immigration based on family relationships. According to the senators, Trump signaled his support for their effort and urged them to expand it to include other areas of legal immigration.
Currently, about 70% of immigration visas are issued to the close relatives of United States Citizens and Permanent Residents. Most years, between 500,000 and 700,000 people come to the United States each year through this system. The RAISE Act would cut those numbers in half.
The way the RAISE Act accomplishes this is by getting rid of most family-based immigration categories. Currently, a United States citizen can apply to bring in her 21-year-old son or daughter, her 50-year-old mother, or her brother. Some of these visas take a long time to process. It takes at least thirteen years to bring in a brother or sister, but a citizen with close relatives abroad could hope to one day be reunited with them. Under the proposed legislation, these visas will disappear.
A citizen will no longer be able to apply for an immigrant visa for her married 20-year-old daughter or for her son in grad school if this bill becomes law. Those with Green Cards will find it impossible to bring in their adult and married children as well.
People in danger of persecution will also be kept out by this legislation. The bill permanently cuts the number of refugees allowed into the United States in half. It also allows the president to set numerical limits on those granted asylum.
The bill ends the Diversity Visa Lottery that allowed people from low-immigration countries to come to America. This program was originally designed to increase European immigration, but it also allows people from other countries to obtain visas.
While some Trump supporters claimed that the new president was only opposed to undocumented immigrants, Trump spoke out against legal immigration several times during his campaign. His speech last week to a joint session of Congress repeated his disdain for family-based immigration as well as for those seeking asylum. In his speech, he listed what he saw as the purposes of immigration law. None of those purposes included allowing families to reunite and protecting refugees.
Strong opposition to this bill is the only way to protect families and refugees.