Two Republican senators who want to slash legal U.S. immigration are simply trying to preserve a racial balance that keeps white people in the majority, according to a top New Jersey Democrat, who argued that voters should punish such overt racism and not allow the GOP to benefit from such tactics.
Republican Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced a bill that could cut legally permissible immigration to the United States in half by limiting green cards, slashing the number of refugees allowed to seek freedom in America, and ending a lottery system for immigrants from countries that are now under-represented among the US population.
Democrat Lisa McCormick, a candidate for governor, says the legislation reveals a hateful, pro-slavery Confederate sickness that pervades the GOP.
Cotton and Perdue said they consulted Republican President Donald Trump, who vowed to crack down on both illegal and legal immigration during his campaign for the White House.
McCormick noted that Republican Senator John McCain disagreed with the bill. A long-time advocate for immigration reform, McCain praised the contribution of immigrants to the United States.
“We need more Sergey Brins and people like that who were born outside of this country and came here, received an education and made enormous progress for all mankind,” McCain told reporters, referring to the Google co-founder, who came to the United States as a refugee from Russia.
Any measure also would need Democratic support to advance in the Senate, but Democrats tend to be opposed because studies show that immigrants boost the U.S. economy and our national values reflect a spirit of inclusion.
“If Cotton and Perdue really cared about American workers, they would raise the minimum wage to about $19 an hour, so it matched productivity, or they would approve legislation empowering workers to form unions to bargain for higher wages, but that’s not what they’re doing,” said Democrat Lisa McCormick.
“These Republicans are not trying to make your life better. They’re trying to cut immigration because immigrants are making the United States less white than it used to be,” said McCormick. “The Republicans would like to do away with a special lottery system started more than two decades ago that annually selects 50,000 people from countries with traditionally lower immigration rates to permanently live in the United States.”
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is one of the world’s more unique green card programs. Nearly 14.4 million people from scores of countries around the world applied for 50,000 visas in 2015, the last year in which figures are publicly available. That means only 0.3 percent of applicants ultimately “won” the lottery.
The program, and more specifically the experience of one Somali refugee, was the subject of a memorable episode of the public radio program “This American Life” back in 2015 that’s worth a listen.
The bill would admit only immediate family members of immigrants, eliminating preferences for adult siblings or adult children. Cotton said it would exclude parents unless they were sick and the family promised not to rely on public benefits.
The proposal came amid a larger immigration fight over Trump’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees.
Cotton said his goal was to stop competition that lowers wages for American workers without high school or college degrees. “Unless we reverse this trend, we are going to create a near-permanent underclass for whom the American dream is always just out of reach,” Cotton said.
“The Republicans would do well to remember that with immigrants, America imports the spirit of limitless possibility that animated our nation in colonial times, throughout our history and even today,” said McCormick. “Greed and fear will not drive us toward peace, progress and prosperity. Love, compassion and courage will take us, united with our brothers and sisters as citizens of the world, to the destination where justice and fair prosperity abound.”