After a crackdown on illegal immigration that has sharply reduced the number of unauthorised border crossings from Mexico, U.S. President Donald Trump is now turning his attention to reducing the number of legal immigrants in the country.
The White House is throwing its support behind a bill developed by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that would cut legal immigration by 50 percent over 10 years by reducing the kinds of relatives immigrants can bring into the country.
But the legislation faces an uphill climb to get through Congress where some senior Republicans back comprehensive immigration reform, not a tough crackdown.
Under the new bill, known as the RAISE Act, the United States would prioritise high-skilled immigrants by setting up a merits-based system similar to those used by Canada and Australia.
Trump and the Republican lawmakers blasted the current immigration system as out of date and argued that it hurts American workers by driving down wages.
"This competitive application process will favour applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy," Trump said.
The Senators said they worked closely with the White House on this latest version of their bill. "This is probably our third or fourth visit to the Oval Office to work with President Trump," Cotton told reporters.
Slashing legal immigration has long been pushed by low-immigration advocacy groups in Washington like NumbersUSA and the ideas have been backed by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is now facing public criticism from Trump.