(CN) – President Trump appeared with a pair of conservative Republican senators at the White House on Wednesday to unveil legislation aimed at slashing legal immigration levels over a decade, a goal Trump endorsed on the campaign trail.
Trump called the bill, known as the RAISE Act, the biggest change to U.S. immigration policy in 50 years.
Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga, have been working with the Trump administration to refine a bill they first introduced in February that aims to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards per year granting foreigners permanent legal residence in the United States.
The legislation, the president said would “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions by changing the way the U.S. issues green cards from other countries.”
“The RAISE Act ends chain migration and replaces our low skilled system with a new points based system for receiving a green card. This application will favor applications who can speak English, financially support themselves and families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy,” the president said.
The legislation will also prevent new “migrants and immigrant from collecting welfare and [will] protect U.S. workers from being displaced. That’s a very big thing. They won’t come in and immediately collect welfare. That’s not going to happen under RAISE. They can’t do that,” Trump added.
Sen. Cotton called the current immigration system a “obsolete disaster.”
“The vast majority come here not because of their English language ability or because of a job offer or educational attainment,” he said. “Only 1 in 15 come here because of their job skill… That means it puts great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and on their feet here,” he said.
Between the president and senators, the request for applicants to “speak English” was mentioned no less than four times.
Before celebrating Wednesday’s stock market high, which Trump noted was a record high saying that “the country is doing very well,” Sen. Perdue doubled down on the call for support.
“As business guys, Mr. President, we understand we need a new approach,” Perdue said, noting that in preparation for writing the legislation, immigration systems from Canada and Australia were used as a sort of rubric.
“The goal should be to protect Americans, including immigrants, who want to work and make a better life for themselves. Our current system makes it impossible to do that. We need highly skilled permanent workers and a measured, rational approach to immigration that will allow us to fix this broken system in a strategic way,” he said.