Earlier today President Trump introduced a new immigration policy proposal for legal entry into the U.S. known as the RAISE Act. The RAISE Act eliminates the outdated Diversity Visa lottery system, which serves questionable economic and humanitarian interests. The RAISE Act replaces the current permanent employment-visa framework with a skills-based system that rewards applicants based on their individual merits.
[Transcript] 11:39 A.M. EDT – THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here today to unveil legislation that would represent the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century. I want to thank Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue for their tremendous work in putting together this historic and very vital proposal.
As a candidate, I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers — and that is why we are here today. Merit-based.
The RAISE Act — R-A-I-S-E — the RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. It will do this by changing the way the United States issues Green Cards to nationals from other countries. Green Cards provide permanent residency, work authorization, and fast track to citizenship.
For decades, the United States was operated and has operated a very low-skilled immigration system, issuing record numbers of Green Cards to low-wage immigrants. This policy has placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources. Among those hit the hardest in recent years have been immigrants and, very importantly, minority workers competing for jobs against brand-new arrivals. And it has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers.
The RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces our low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card. This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.
The RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare, and protects U.S. workers from being displaced. And that’s a very big thing. They’re not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare. That doesn’t happen under the RAISE Act. They can’t do that. Crucially, the Green Card reforms in the RAISE Act will give American workers a pay raise by reducing unskilled immigration.
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. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.
Finally, the reforms in the RAISE Act will help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed, and will achieve the American Dream.
I’d like now to invite Senator Cotton and Senator Perdue to say a few words. Thank you. Thank you very much.
SENATOR COTTON: Thank you, Mr. President. I’m very excited to be here with Senator Perdue and President Trump to be introducing the new version of the RAISE Act.
Our legal immigration system should accomplish two main goals: One, it should help American workers get a decent pay raise and have a higher standard of living. And, two, it should help promote economic growth to make America more competitive in the world.
Our current system simply doesn’t do that. It’s over a half-century old. It is an obsolete disaster. And it’s time for it to change.
So, first, we bring over a million immigrants into this country a year. That’s like adding the population of Montana every single year; adding the population of Arkansas every three years. The vast majority of those workers — or those immigrants come here not because of their English-language abilities or their job skills, or their job offer, or their educational attainment. In fact, only 1 in 15 — only 1 in 15 out of a million new immigrants come here because of their job skills and their ability to succeed in this economy.
That means it puts great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and work on their feet. Now, for some people, they may think that that’s a symbol of America’s virtue and generosity. I think it’s a symbol that we’re not committed to working-class Americans. And we need to change that.
Second, we also lose out on the very best talent coming to our country — the most ultra, high-skilled immigrants who can come here and bring their entrepreneurial spirit and their innovative capabilities, and make a higher wage, create new jobs for other Americans and new immigrants, speak English, and contribute to our economy, and stand on their own two feet, and pay taxes, and not receive welfare, and not drive down wages for working-class Americans.
The RAISE Act will change all of that by re-orienting our Green Card system towards people who can speak English, who have high degrees of educational attainment, who have a job offer that pays more, and a typical job in their local economy, who are going to create a new business, and who are outstanding in their field around the world.
And I’m excited, and I look forward to working with Senator Perdue and President Trump to pass this legislation through the Congress and make this kind of very fundamental, sweeping change for the first time in over 50 years to our immigration system.
SENATOR PERDUE: Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon, everyone.
First of all, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your leadership on this immigration topic. I think this is extremely critical for our country. You talked about it often on the campaign trail. You said job one was growing the economy. That is part of why I believe you’re standing here and why I’m standing here. You’ve also said that — as a Fortune 500 CEO — I’m the only Fortune 500 CEO in Congress, and I’ve lived around the world much of my career. And I can tell you, nothing that we’re going to do right now is more important than this in terms of growing our economy.
The reason we need to do this is very simple: Our current system does not work. It keeps America from being competitive, and it does not meet the needs of our economy today. Today, as Tom said, we bring in 1.1 million legal immigrants a year. Over 50 percent of our households of legal immigrants today participate in our social welfare system. Right now, only one 1 out of 15 immigrants who come into our country come in with skills that are employable. We’ve got to change that. As business guys, Mr. President, you and I understand we need we need a new approach: We need to fix this immigration system.
So we took a look at best practices. We looked at countries like Canada, Australia, and others. What we’re introducing today is modeled on the current Canadian and Australian systems. It’s pro-worker, it’s pro-growth, and it’s been proven to work. Both have been extremely successful in attracting highly skilled workers to those countries.
We can all agree the goals of our nation’s immigration system should be to protect the interests of working Americans, including immigrants, and to welcome talented individuals who come here legally and want to work and make a better life for themselves. Our current system makes it virtually impossible for them to do that.
If we’re going to continue as the innovator in the world and the leader economically, it’s imperative that our immigration system focus on highly skilled, permanent workers who can add value to our economy and ultimately achieve their own version of the American Dream.
What we’re talking about today is very simple: It’s measured, it’s a rational approach to immigration that will allow us to finally fix once and for all this broken system in a strategic way that will reposition America as a global leader economically.
Mr. President, I am proud to stand here with you and Tom Cotton. I look forward to passing this in U.S. Congress and making this a law of the land, and letting it be a sweeping change for America. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I just want to state that, as you probably have noticed, the stock market hit an all-time record high today — over 22,000. We’ve picked up, substantially now, more than $4 trillion in net worth in terms of our country, our stocks, our companies. We have a growth rate — a GDP — which has been much higher than, as you know, anybody anticipated, except maybe us. But it’s going to go up. It’s going to go higher, too. We’re doing a job.
And you’re going to see jobs are pouring back into the country. The factories and plants are coming back into the country. We’re going to start making product in America again. And that’s happening all over. As I mentioned yesterday, Foxconn is going to spend $10 billion in Wisconsin and other places. And I think the $10 billion is going to end up being $30 billion. They make the iPhones for Apple and others, and it is a truly incredible company.
So we have a lot of things happening that are really great. But again, today the stock market hit the highest level that it has ever been, and our country is doing very well.
I just want to thank you all. Tom and David are going to be outside. They’re going to speak to you at length about what we’re going to do with respect to this aspect of immigration. I think it’s going to be very, very important — the biggest in 50 years — biggest change in 50 years.
Thank you all very much.