Any legislation that provides legal status to so-called “Dreamers,” or young illegal immigrants brought to the country by their parents, must end the process of allowing prior immigrants to determine who future immigrants are based strictly on family ties, Sen. David Perdue said.
The Georgia Republican’s demand to end the process known as “chain migration” came a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced his support for a merit-based immigration bill sponsored by Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. President Donald Trump backed the proposal months ago.
After announcing in September he was ending the program, Trump gave Congress until March to address former President Barack Obama’s executive action that created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which shields an estimated 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” from deportation.
Perdue and Cotton are sponsoring legislation they call the the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act. The RAISE Act would establish a merit-based immigration system—focused on skilled labor—to replace the current “chain migration” system based on family reunification, which has led to a multiplying effect on the number of legal immigrants in the country.
“I want to stop the conversation about DACA as singular issue, relative to a solution,” Perdue told The Daily Signal when taking questions at a forum sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors stricter limits on immigration.
“I just don’t think under current law there is a solution to DACA, because of the parental and chain immigration dimension of it. What we’ve said is, ‘Look, if you want a solution to DACA, you’ve got to at least engage on RAISE.’”
Chain migration has paved the way for millions of immediate family members related to legal immigrants and naturalized citizens to come to the United States.
McConnell said on Fox News Channel on Wednesday night, “I agree with Cotton and Perdue” on their bill, adding:
The president has given us until March to deal with the issue of DACA. And the question is whether you are just going to do that and nothing else. I’m in favor of doing something on the DACA front. These kids came here through no act of their own.
I think they have a legitimate case to be made, but I don’t think we ought to just do that. Chain migration, doing something about the diversity visa lottery, there are plenty of changes to the legal immigration system that should be added to any kind of a DACA fix that we do.
If all of those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status were legalized, it would likely balloon to 2 million new legalized relatives in the next decade, Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, said at the forum.
Perdue said he isn’t sure how the legislation would be structured.
“I wouldn’t preclude any negotiation right now, except that I have certain precepts. One is, beyond anything else, we have to end chain migration,” Perdue told The Daily Signal. “I’m saying that as a business guy. I don’t know the political ramifications of that. … But think about this. The last time we changed our immigration law was 1990. It’s time to review. The world has changed since then. It’s time to get a deal done.”
Perdue is the only former Fortune 500 CEO in Congress, having run both Reebok and Dollar General stores prior to his political career.
The Georgia lawmaker said the U.S. immigration system is “absolutely screaming to be reformed,” noting that a merit-based system has broad public support.
The RAISE Act, he said, “is pro-worker. It’s pro-growth.”
“If you just did a pure DACA solution under current law, the problem with that is, the parent in five years would be the next person that gets included,” Perdue said. “I have a particular problem with that, because what makes the DACA young people different is that they didn’t violate the law, their parents did.”
Any amnesty is closely linked to addressing chain migration, agreed Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
“The RAISE Act isn’t just a good idea, and here we have an opportunity with DACA. It actually is related to DACA in the sense that DACA is going to have certain harmful consequences,” Krikorian said during the forum. “It’s going to almost certainly attract more illegal immigration and spark more chain migration. So, something like the RAISE Act is necessary as a kind of damage control component of a DACA fix, rather than just horse-trading.”
The United States could use more high-skilled workers to help make America more competitive, Perdue said.
“What we’re doing is, we’re educating a lot of young people around the world coming to our colleges and our universities,” Perdue told The Daily Signal. “The No. 1 export we have, the highest-quality export we have, is our [higher education] system. The problem is, we are educating these young people, giving them diplomas, and in many cases putting them on scholarships, and not giving them a green card.”
My home state of Georgia right now does more traditional movies than California. That’s a fact. The problem is, the digital development, which is the fastest-growing part of the movie industry, is actually in Canada and now the [United Kingdom]. Why?
A lot of kids go to our schools, on a scholarship, and get their degrees. Many of these are engineers and so forth, and high-tech skilled workers, that can’t get a green card and end up going to Canada.
So Canada right now is the leading growth area for digital movies. So, I’m of the opinion, nobody knows what this limit should be, what the number should be. But we are going to find out. First, we’ve got to stop chain migration and go to a merit-based immigration system.