In a mere three-minute speech at the White House, President Trump proposed Wednesday a sweeping new U.S. immigration system that would overturn the rules for becoming an American citizen and cut in half the number allowed in.
His comments marked a radical break from decades of bipartisan consensus on legal immigration, and the reaction was swift and severe, drawing rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who called it a non-starter. Some worried about the impact on their state economies, and others about the nation’s tradition as a refuge for immigrants.
The fallout was so great that a White House adviser found himself debating the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty as a beacon of light and welcome for those around the world seeking a better life in the United States, where 1 in 4 Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants.
Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration have been central to his presidential campaign and his first six months in office, as he mobilized the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up deportations of undocumented immigrants. Wednesday’s announcement, however, marked his first attempt to tackle the legal immigration system.
The proposal is part of a bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. It would switch from a system based on family members in the U.S. to one based on economic value to the country.
Taking cues from immigration systems in Canada and Australia, the plan would end the long-held practice of U.S. citizens sponsoring parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and adult children for permanent residence and ultimate citizenship. Americans…