With the blessings of President Donald Trump, two Senate Republicans embarked on a new effort Wednesday to slash the number of green cards that the U.S. government awards to foreigners — a move that’s drawing another round of criticism from the tech industry.
Under the so-called RAISE Act, unveiled by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton and David Purdue earlier today, the U.S. government would reduce legal immigration by half within 10 years of its enactment. Republicans propose to achieve that major cut in part by limiting green cards the government grants to extended family members while prioritizing applicants with high-skilled, highly paid jobs.
Along with other major proposed changes to U.S. immigration laws — including a wholesale scrapping of the government’s diversity visa program — the bill drew swift condemnation from Silicon Valley’s champions in Washington, D.C. Among the early critics was the information Technology Industry council, a lobbying group for the likes of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other tech giants.
“Access to talent is a challenge for the tech industry because not only can we not find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open roles, our broken system stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors,” said Dean Garfield, the group’s president, in a statement.
“This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy,” he continued.
But in the eyes of Republican lawmakers — who joined Trump to unveil the measure earlier today at the White House — the changes are necessary to protect American workers from losing their jobs and benefits.
“We want people that work really hard in their country and that are going to come into our country and work really, really hard,” Trump said. “We don’t want people that come into our country and immediately go on welfare and stay there for the rest of their lives. We’re not going to do it.”
Under current law, citizens and legal permanent residents alike can sponsor family members, like spouses and children, for green cards. Under the bill unveiled Wednesday, though, Cotton, Purdue and their Republican allies in the Senate specifically would eliminate visa preferences for extended family members, including siblings and adult children.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government would adopt a “point system,” the lawmakers said, which would award green cards to foreigners who meet certain criteria, including English-speaking ability, high-paying job offers and advanced education degrees. And it would curtail other immigration programs, including a new cap on the number of refugees who can obtain permanent residency status.
Even with a focus on “merit-based” immigration, as Republicans described it, the approach has already upset some in the tech industry, where tech giants don’t seem to believe it would actually pave the way for the most talented engineers, with the skills in greatest need, to obtain green cards and stay in the country. Generally, the tech industry also has opposed changes to federal immigration laws that limit their foreign workers from bringing their family members to the United States.
Still, Trump’s support for the bill is only his latest attempt to take aim at immigration laws in a way that — in the eyes of the tech industry — harms their ability to hire highly skilled workers.
First, Trump’s executive orders banning travelers and refugees from majority-Muslim countries prompted the likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft to support legal challenges to his directive in federal courts. Then, those companies similarly sounded off as the president has promised greater scrutiny of high-skilled visa programs, including the H-1B visa.
Since then, the Trump administration has taken steps toward eliminating a key initiative instituted by former President Barack Obama to help foreign entrepreneurs try out their new startups in the United States. The moves, however, have come even as the president has promised tech executives that he supports immigration reform.
“The result is, depending upon whose assumptions you’re using ... a 50 to 69 percent cut to overall immigration levels,” fretted Todd Schulte, the leader of FWD.us, the immigration reform-focused group launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.