President Trump has embraced a proposal to reduce legal immigration to the U.S. in half within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of U.S. citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country, the New York Times reports. The plan would amount to the most far-reaching changes to the system of legal immigration in decades. Trump intensified a debate about national identity, economic growth, worker fairness and American values that animated his campaign. Critics said the proposal would undercut the fundamental vision of the U.S. as a haven for the poor and huddled masses. Trump and his allies said the U.S. had taken in too many low-skilled immigrants for too long to the detriment of American workers.
“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens,” Trump said. By endorsing legal immigration cuts, Trump returned to a theme that has defined his political career and excites his conservative base at a time when his poll numbers continue to sink. Just 33 percent of Americans approved of his performance in the latest Quinnipiac University survey, his lowest rating. Democrats and some Republicans criticized the move. “Instead of catching criminals, Trump wants to tear apart communities and punish immigrant families that are making valuable contributions to our economy,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “That’s not what America stands for.” The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, would institute a merit-based system to determine who is granted legal residency green cards, favoring applicants based on skills, education and language ability rather than relations with people already here.