President Donald Trump today announced his support of a Senate bill that would drastically reduce legal immigration and introduce a points-based system for deciding applications for green cards.

Trump said in a White House speech that the bill would “put Americans first” by creating a “merit-based” system. Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., who sponsored the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, said the bill would reduce the flow of low-skilled immigrants and lead to an increase in the wages of American workers.

The sponsors of the legislation state that the bill would:

  • Reduce overall immigration to the U.S. by half in the next decade. The number of immigrants would drop to 637,960 (41 percent) in the first year of enactment and to 539,958 (50 percent) by its tenth year.
  • Create a skills-based points system prioritizing green card applicants based on English language skills, education, high-paying job offers, age, record of extraordinary achievement, and entrepreneurial initiative. Twice a year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would allocate employment-based green cards to applicants with the highest number of points.
  • Retain family immigration preferences for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, but eliminate preference categories for extended family members and adult family members. A renewable temporary visa would be created for elderly parents of U.S. citizens to come to the U.S. to be cared for.
  • Eliminate the Diversity Visa lottery that currently grants 50,000 green cards to individuals from countries with historically low immigration rates to the U.S.
  • Cap the number of green cards awarded to refugees at 50,000 per year.

BAL Analysis: A full analysis of the legislation is available here. It is expected that the legislation will be very controversial as it would dramatically reduce family-based immigration, and millions of qualified immigrants would lose their basis for immigrating to the U.S. The legislation is not expected to move on its own, but does reflect where the White House and some members of Congress stand with respect to legal immigration levels.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact


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