Trump unveils bill to transform legal immigration system

President Donald Trump introduced a bill on Wednesday to create a new legal immigration formula for the United States, which he says emphasizes merit in an effort to protect American workers and the American economy.

"I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers," President Trump said at the White House Wednesday. "[This bill] will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars."

The legislation, called The Raise Act, aims to replace the current permanent employment-immigration framework, which has been characterized by the Trump administration as a “lottery system,” with what it is calling a skill-based system that operates on the basis of individual merits. The new competitive application process will favor those who possess skills that will benefit the U.S. economy, can speak english and are able to financially support themselves and their families, Trump said.

The measure is based on a bill that was developed in Congress by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. David Perdue (R- Ga.) and could slash the number of legal immigrants admitted to the country by curbing family-based immigration.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 1,051,000 individuals became permanent residents in 2015.

The Trump administration’s goal is to prevent low-skilled American workers from being undercut by immigrants with a comparable level of expertise. Sen. Cotton said Wednesday the current system places "great downward pressure on people who work with their hands and work on their feet."

The White House also believes this transformation could raise wages and protect taxpayers by potentially decreasing the number of immigrant families that rely on welfare. More than 50% of all immigrant households receive welfare benefits, while 30% of native households do, according to the administration.

President Trump has promised to reform the immigration system throughout both his campaign and the first few months of his presidency. The Raise Act must still pass through both houses of Congress before it becomes law.