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Bill to Cut US Legal Immigration Expected Later This Summer


Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., left, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., confer before the start of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Capitol in Washington, June 20, 2017.

Two Republican senators are working with the White House on a comprehensive immigration bill that reports say will cut legal immigration in half.

An earlier version of the bill proposed in February by Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton was also expected to cut legal immigration from 1 million to 500,000 each year. It called for limiting admission for migrants' family members, ending the diversity visa lottery program and making the process of obtaining “green card” work permits much more difficult.

“Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue are continuing to build on the RAISE act they introduced earlier this year and hope to introduce a new bill soon,” Communications Director for Cotton, Caroline Rabbitt, replied when VOA requested an interview with Cotton.

But “I would be nervous if we cut the number of immigrants by 50 percent,” Kim Rueben, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told VOA.

Explaining why, Rueben said one of the most “striking findings” of research she participated in with the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine was that starting in 2020 the only increases in the U.S. labor-force are expected to come from immigrants and the children of immigrants.

“We kind of need immigrants and their children to keep our country growing,” she said.

Cotton and Perdue argue that the “generation-long-influx of low-skilled immigrants has been a major factor in the downward pressure on the wages of working Americans.”

“We support the bill one hundred percent," said Joe Guzzardi, national media director at the Californians for Population Stabilization. It “achieves many of the objectives: low levels of legal immigration, eliminating the diversity visa — which it's hard to defend the need for diversity visa — and also lower numbers for refugee resettlement.

Guzzardi hopes the legislation will stimulate an "intelligent conversation" in the U.S. Congress about the consequences of what he said is "continuing on autopilot with the same immigration policies that have been in effect for decades... regardless of recession or regardless of a mortgage meltdown, regardless of a job market."

In this April 25, 2017 photo, Stephen Faulkner, middle, owner of Faulkner's Landscaping & Nursery, installs an irrigation system alongside his workers Gonsalo Garcia, left, and Jalen Murchison, right, at a landscape project in Manchester, N.H.
In this April 25, 2017 photo, Stephen Faulkner, middle, owner of Faulkner's Landscaping & Nursery, installs an irrigation system alongside his workers Gonsalo Garcia, left, and Jalen Murchison, right, at a landscape project in Manchester, N.H.

US jobs, employment

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that in June job growth "was strong," which economists say contradicts the idea that immigrants are taking jobs away from native born Americans.
"Since January, the unemployment rate has dropped by 0.4 percent and is well below the pre-recession rate of 5.3 percent. (June's) robust job creation and moderate wage growth has direct impact on American families," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement.

Rueben says the economy actually needs people to take on jobs.

"As baby boomers and generation X age and natives are having fewer children, the people who are going to be replacing them in the labor force are largely coming from immigrant populations and their children," Rueben said.

Bayard Winthrop, chief executive of American Giant, a company that makes sweatshirts 100 percent made in America, told a local Washington, D.C., radio station that one of the biggest problems his company faces is not having enough American workers applying for positions such as picking cotton.

"If you go through our supply chain and talk to a lot of the businesses that are ginning cotton, dyeing and finishing cotton, what you hear pretty universally is they have open job requests but few people actually want these entry-level, lower-wage jobs," Winthrop said.

Guzzardi says the solution is not bringing in more foreign workers.

"If you can't fill a job for say $12 an hour, the historic solution for that problem is to offer $14 an hour and if you can't offer $14 an hour go on ahead and try $15 an hour," he told VOA.

Groom Cesar Abrego gives a bath to a horses following his morning workout at Churchill Downs, April 19, 2017, in Louisville, Kentucky. Abrego came from Guatemala on an H-2B visa.
Groom Cesar Abrego gives a bath to a horses following his morning workout at Churchill Downs, April 19, 2017, in Louisville, Kentucky. Abrego came from Guatemala on an H-2B visa.

Temporary work visas

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made 15,000 additional H-2B visas available for companies to hire temporary, non-agricultural foreign workers before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

"It looks clearly that they caved into the cheap labor lobby and went on ahead with some kind of compromise situation," Guzzardi said.

Rueben's research shows that immigrants are "actually good" for the country's bottom line.

"Children of immigrants tend to have more education and earn more in wages than their parents did," she said.

"Because the federal government uses the progressive income tax, if you have more education and people are earning more money they pay more in federal taxes," she said.

Cotton and Perdue are expected to introduce the latest version of their bill later in the summer.

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    Aline Barros

    Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.

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