President Donald Trump on Wednesday put his personal stamp of approval on a bill that would significantly curtail legal immigration into the United States thanks to a plan that would include a “merit-based” points system for evaluating people.
“This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English,” Trump said in a press conference, where he was flanked by the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
Trump said the bill would be “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century” and would “reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars.”
Along with preferential treatment for immigrants who speak English, Trump also said the proposed reforms would privilege immigrants who can “financially support” themselves and their families and have skills they can demonstrate. He then delivered a misleading aside about green card holders receiving government assistance.
“They’re not just going to come in and collect welfare,” Trump said. “Under the RAISE Act, they can’t do that.” (Never mind that new Americans who enter the county through official channels are barred from receiving any assistance until they’ve been in the country for five years, while undocumented immigrants are eligible for none at all.)
In his own remarks, Cotton said the measure should help American workers “get a decent pay raise.” He also said the country issues too many green cards and keeps the “most ultra-high skilled immigrants” from coming to the U.S.
There’s a lot of lies and less-than-truth to unpack in this roll-out, but I’ll start here: This is a stunning muscle flex from a businessman like Trump, whose empire was build on immigrant labor. Although there’s simply no truth to the notion that immigrants are swarming into the country to steal your jobs, Trump has aggressively pushed it anyway, despite the fact that the president’s Mar-A-Lago club in Florida can’t hire temporary foreign workers fast enough, citing a shortage of American workers to work as cooks, housekeepers, and food service staff.
The president also disingenuously compared the system he’s endorsing to those of Canada and Australia. Although Canada does use a points-based system, it accepts immigrants into the country relative to population size. As The Huffington Post reported (emphasis mine):
If Trump truly wanted to mimic Canada or Australia, it would mean considerably more immigration, not less. If the U.S. accepted immigrants at the same rate as Canada does, relative to population size, the current yearly total of about 1 million would rise to about 2.5 million, as Anderson pointed out in a recent Forbes commentary. At Australia’s rate, the total would increase to 2.9 million people.
That’s part of why pro-immigration experts suggest that being more like Canada wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Somewhat fortunately, as BuzzFeed DC’s Sarah Mimms pointed out on Twitter, today’s announcement wasn’t for a new bill, but an updated version of a piece of legislation that was released in February and remains stalled out in the Judiciary Committee. It would also likely face an insurmountable obstacle en route to the president’s desk, as eight Democrats would have to lend the stringently anti-immigrant measure their support.