NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - President Donald Trump's push for a merit-based immigration system is drawing criticism from some locals who assist immigrants.
"I think that's an abandonment of what the United States is supposed to be about, you know, the Statue of Liberty, you know, one of the symbols of our country is that we are open, we have our doors open and we allow people to come," said attorney Bill Quigley, director of Loyola University's Law Clinic, which handles hundreds of immigration cases.
But the president said it is time that America yank the welcome mat for immigrants who hurt American workers and are a drain on community resources.
"The Raise Act, R-A-I-S-E, the Raise Act will reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars," said Trump during a televised statement at the White House.
Trump and some Republicans on Capitol Hill seek to sharpen the criteria for getting a green card, which allows people born outside of the country to live and work in the U.S. permanently.
"This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves," said Trump.
The U.S. admits that about a million immigrants legally enter the country each year. The proposal would halve that number.
"The idea that you're going to have to be able to speak English before you come, you're going to have to pass some sort of high-proficiency skill test before you come, those are not the kinds of things that the people in the United States want," Quigley said.
He said to stymie legal immigration is to rob the country of new ideas and cultures. But Trump believes many immigrants siphon resources from communities without contributing to the economy.
Under the bill, even if immigrants get a green card they would not get a welfare card, according to the president.
"The Raise Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare and protects U.S. workers from being displaced. And that's a very big thing. They're not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare. That doesn't happen under the Raise Act, they can't do that," said Trump.
And Trump said the proposed new law would amount to a pay raise for many Americans because there would be fewer immigrants competing with them for work and undercutting wages in the process.
Trump said for much too long, the U.S. has given out a record number of green cards.
"This policy has placed substantial pressure on American workers, taxpayers and community resources. Among those hit the hardest in recent years have been immigrants, and very importantly minority workers competing for jobs against brand new arrivals, and it has not been fair to our people, to our citizens, to our workers," said Trump.
"I think most people would say that there's a lot of working poor people in this country, millions of people who deserve a raise. Are they going to get a raise because the president cuts down on immigration? They're not. I mean, there are ways to raise the wages of people. New Orleans, other places around the country have tried to raise the minimum wage," Quigley said.
Quigley said he does not believe the president can muster the votes needed to get the legislation through the U.S. Senate.