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War on immigration escalates in D.C.

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Politico is reporting on a bill crafted by two Republican Senators that would reduce legal immigration by half:

A senior White House official described the moves as part of a broader reorganization of the immigration system. The official said the White House particularly wanted to target welfare programs and limit citizenship and migration to those who pay taxes and earn higher wages.

“In order to be eligible for citizenship, you’ll have to demonstrate you are self-sufficient and you don’t receive welfare,” the senior administration official said.

“You’re going to reduce low-skilled immigration substantially, which will protect American workers and recent immigrants themselves,” this person said.

Of course it has full support of the White House:

Trump praised the virtues of the merit-based models of Canada and Australia in his remarks to a joint session of Congress in late February. “Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, we will have so many more benefits,” he said. “It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families — including immigrant families — enter the middle class.”

If passed, it would be the biggest overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in decades. The merit based system is not unlike that of many other countries. Current law allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their parents, siblings and married adult children for immigrant visas. Under the Cotton-Perdue proposal, only spouses and minor children could be sponsored.

But we have to wonder: what is the real goal here? Is the American public clamoring for a crackdown on immigration?  Well, sort of.

Last year Pew Research released results of a poll on Americans’ attitudes on immigration. It found a dramatic drop in those who viewed immigrants favorably:

For more than 20 years, Pew Research Center has been asking whether immigrants in the U.S. “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents,” or whether they “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.”

In that time period, opinions about immigrants have shifted dramatically. In our latest national political survey, released in March, 59% of the public say immigrants strengthen the country, while 33% describe them as a burden. In 1994, opinions were nearly the reverse: 63% said immigrants were a burden and 31% said they strengthened the country.

But has there been a dramatic increase in legal immigration in the past two decades? No. There has been a growing fear of job loss and career obsolescence, mainly due to automation. But, hey, immigrants you can control. Technology not so much.

Also, there’s a big partisan split on immigration attitudes, and it’s grown dramatically wider. From Pew:

FT_16.04.14_USimmigrants_partisan

We know that Republicans have been demonizing the undocumented for years, with a big recent spike. But where are the voices of opposition? Where are the leaders who could push back against these attitudes?