Republicans Tell Trump: Your Immigration Agenda Leads to More Illegal Immigration

President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda is finally taking shape, and some Republicans aren’t too happy with the announced plans—after months of the GOP endorsing the White House’s most controversial proposals, from a border wall to a big increase in detention and deportations.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham warned the president the merit-based immigration plan he supports, which would cut in half legal immigration into the U.S. over the next decade and effectively favor green card applicants who display skills in language and education, would spell “disaster” for South Carolina.

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“After dealing with this issue for more than a decade, I know that when you restrict legal labor to employers it incentivizes cheating,” Graham said in a statement.

The RAISE Act was announced Tuesday afternoon by Trump and the two Republican senators who created the proposal, Tom Cotton and David Perdue. Since then, it’s received blowback from numerous Democratic lawmakers and a number of Republicans like Graham, who says the bill would put the service industry “in peril.”

“South Carolina’s No.1 industry is agriculture, and tourism is No. 2. If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy, which relies on this immigrant workforce,” Graham said. “South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers. Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal—to cut legal immigration in half—would put their business in peril.”

Senator Tim Scott, another South Carolina Republican, expressed the need to fix “our broken illegal immigration problem” in a statement following the RAISE Act’s introduction but also expressed his support for continuing “to encourage the legal process,” noting its positive effects on the labor force.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune echoed concerns about a reduction in the labor workforce in an interview with the Washington Examiner Tuesday. “If we get on immigration, there will be a lot of different perspectives on that.... We have workforce needs, and some of those are filled by the immigrant labor supply.”

Trump’s promised rollback of immigration into the U.S., one he made clear on day one of his presidential campaign, was a critical component to his election victory.

The sentiments he expressed along the campaign trail—saying during his campaign announcement, “When Mexico sends its people, they aren’t sending their best,” claiming immigrants steal jobs from Americans, when statistics reveal otherwise—struck a nerve among the GOP and its supporters, with polls showing 82 percent of Republicans supported Trump’s executive order restricting travel from several Muslim-majority nations. 

“I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers & taxpayers,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

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