- The Trump administration has announced its support for an immigration reform bill that would slash legal immigration in half while putting in place a merit-based system to evaluate immigrants based on skill, according to various media reports. Trump said the legislation will "restore [the country's] competitive edge."
- The bill, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, is sponsored by Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. On top of installing a points-based merit system, the bill would limit immigrants that would be allowed in based on family relations alone — the current way a majority of immigrants gain entrance.
- Other countries, including Canada, have used a points-based merit system based on skill and education, but response to the bill's plan has varied widely, as it implements some wide-ranging changes to a legal immigration system that has been in place for decades.
For employers, the focus on skills in the current plan may be a welcome shift in the discussion. Highly skilled workers from other countries can help ease stark skills gaps exacerbated by fast growth and changing technology within the STEM fields. But the overall cuts to legal immigration could put a severe damper on the actual effectiveness of a point-based system, some experts say, somewhat defeating the purpose.
Trump's support of the plan is in line with his other actions on immigration, which have largely focused on cuts to force companies to "Hire American." Immigration policymakers have been pushing for changes to the H-1B visa for some time to improve its fairness, but little action has happened yet.
Additionally, this bill is unlikely to pass as is, especially with a Congress still wrapped up in healthcare and tax reform. Immigration tends to split party coalitions. For that reason, it's often not handled decisively — if at all. So far the status quo has largely held regarding employment visas. It's unclear if any major shifts will happen any time soon.