Legal immigration would be cut by 30 percent and U.S. borders would get 5,000 added enforcement agents under legislation offered Wednesday by House Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
“We sought to design a bill not driven by arbitrary numbers, special interests or by countries that can apply the most pressure,” Smith said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “What’s in the best interests of the American worker and the American economy is what drives us.”
Supporters hope the bill will win passage amid growing calls for reform in the nation’s immigration system, which for decades has allowed increasing numbers of foreigners to enter the United States.
Critics called the legislation a radical reaction to what they say are false claims that immigrants hurt the nation’s economy.
“It’s very much a nativist piece of legislation that is not in our economic interests,” said Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.
Legal immigration instead allows American companies to import skilled labor they can’t find here, he said.
Cuts to legal immigration and another provision requiring telephone checks of the immigrant status of job applicants will prove difficult to pass, Moore said.
The bill, however, drew some immediate bipartisan support, including a general endorsement from the Immigration Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. John Bryant of Texas.
“Simply put, there are too many legal immigrants in America today and too many illegal immigrants in America today,” he said.
Bryant said he had not yet decided whether to sponsor the legislation because he had not yet read it.