President Trump and his Senate allies are now presenting their goal for immigration reform as increasing the number of high-skilled immigrants allowed into the United States. But the immigration legislation from Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that Trump has endorsed would almost certainly reduce the total number of high-skilled immigrants.
That stark contradiction has been overshadowed by reports that Trump used a vulgarity to describe immigrants from Africa and Haiti during a private White House meeting last week—and by the widely disputed accusation from Cotton and Perdue, who attended, that their colleague Dick Durbin lied when he recounted the president’s language.
But by trumpeting high-skilled immigration, Trump, Cotton, and Perdue are also obscuring the most significant impact of their proposal: a 50 percent cut in legal immigration. Within that smaller pool of immigrants, high-skilled workers could very well comprise a larger share than they do now. But if that shift were to happen, it would only be because immigration levels would fall even faster for those who are lower-skilled.
“They are not talking about immigrating 1 million scientists and engineers,” said Stuart Anderson, the executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy and a former immigration aide to two Republican senators. “It’s completely untrue that it would bring in more skilled immigrants. The purpose of this from the beginning has been to cut legal immigration.”