Immigrant and refugee groups are raising concerns about a proposal put forth by Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, along with Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, to reduce legal immigration. The proposal got the backing of President Trump Wednesday in a joint press conference with the senators.
“Our current system does not work. It keeps America from being competitive and it does not meet the needs of our economy today,” Perdue said.
The bill would slash the number of green cards the U.S. issues in half by the next 10 years and create a merit-based system that the senators said would prioritize “high-skilled” immigrants.
Supporters, including the president, say the bill would spur the U.S. economy and help American workers, but critics argue the bill would make the U.S. less competitive.
“People are going to immigrate. People are always going to go to places where there are more opportunities and options. And if America isn’t that place, someplace else will be,” said Charles Kuck, an immigration attorney in Georgia and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
In a statement, Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is reviewing the bill and is “talking to our partners, especially those in the agriculture arena."
Nearly one in 10 Georgians are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 26,000 people in Georgia were issued green cards in 2015.
The legislation would also cap the number of refugees coming into the country at 50,000 a year.
J.D. McCrary, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, a refugee resettlement group, said there’s already limited options for people who are fleeing persecution around the world. He also argued that refugees also boost the economy.
“Ninety percent of all refugee households within six months of arrival are economically sufficient and contributing back to the economy at the local, state and federal level,” McCrary said.
According to the Refugee Processing Center, nearly 1,800 refugees resettled in Georgia since October of 2016.