Donald Trump and his aides are quietly working with two conservative senators to dramatically scale back legal immigration — a move that would mark a fulfillment of one of the president’s biggest campaign promises.
Trump plans to get behind a bill being introduced later this summer by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that, if signed into law, would, by 2027, slash in half the number of legal immigrants entering the country each year, according to four people familiar with the conversations. Currently, about 1 million legal immigrants enter the country annually; that number would fall to 500,000 over the next decade.
The senators have been working closely with Stephen Miller, a senior White House official known for his hawkish stance on immigration. The issue is also a central priority for Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who has several promises to limit immigration scribbled on the walls of his office.
The forthcoming bill is a revised and expanded version of legislation the two senators unveiled in February, known as the RAISE Act, which they discussed with Trump at the White House in March, and which the president praised at the time.
Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have at least paid lip service to the need to crack down on illegal immigration, reducing legal immigration is more controversial, even among Republicans.
It’s unclear how the White House could pull off such contentious legislation, given Congress is already bogged down in its attempt to repeal Obamacare and has not yet seriously started on tax reform and an infrastructure package — two other major GOP priorities. Congress must also pass legislation by this fall to avoid a government shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling.
“Sen. Cotton knows that being more deliberate about who we let into our country will raise working-class wages, which is why an overwhelming majority of Americans support it. He and Sen. Perdue are working with President Trump to fix our immigration system so that instead of undercutting American workers, it will support them and their livelihoods,” said Caroline Rabbitt, a Cotton spokeswoman.