Two Republican senators propose bill to slash legal U.S. immigration

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(Reuters) Two Republican senators proposed steps to slash the number of legal immigrants admitted into the United States by half on Tuesday, but the legislation, developed with the Trump administration, faces an uphill climb to get through Congress.

Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue said their bill would cut the number of immigrants granted U.S. residency each year to 500,000 from 1 million, through measures including cutting far back on which relatives can be brought into the country and eliminating a diversity visa lottery.

The legislation would not affect foreigners admitted to the United States on visas specifically tied to their employment.

Cotton and Perdue said they had consulted Republican President Donald Trump, who vowed to crack down on both illegal and legal immigration during his campaign for the White House.

Cotton said he had spoken to Trump about it by telephone as recently as Tuesday morning.

The measure faces stiff opposition in Congress. Although Trump’s fellow Republicans control majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, several back comprehensive immigration reform, not a tough crackdown.

Any measure would need Democratic support to advance in the Senate, and Democrats are strongly opposed.

Perdue and Cotton acknowledged the bill would not come up for a vote any time soon. “We’re hopeful that we’ll see this on the floor of the Senate this year,” Cotton told a news conference to unveil the bill.

The measure 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 measure would still allow in “high-skilled individuals who can come and help our economy.”

He said it was intended to stop competition lowering wages for less-educated workers. “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,” he said.

Asked if the White House would support the legislation and whether it was working with the senators, a spokesman said, “We are reviewing it.”

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