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AZ Advocates Blast Trump Policy on Legal Immigrants as a Distraction

Advocates for legal immigration point out that they pay the same taxes as the native born and make a significant contribution to the economy. (Pixabay)
Advocates for legal immigration point out that they pay the same taxes as the native born and make a significant contribution to the economy. (Pixabay)
August 3, 2017

PHOENIX -- President Trump announced his support Wednesday for a bill whose goal is to cut legal immigration in half and make it harder for citizens and legal residents to bring relatives to the U.S.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, would favor legal immigrants who speak English and have higher skill levels, and it would severely limit the number of refugees.

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, said she believes the president is attacking legal immigrants to draw attention away from the Russia scandal and failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

"He is just distracting from his lack of knowledge of how to govern and throwing darts wherever he can to distract from the internal problems he has,” Falcon said.

Federal stats show that in 2015, the U.S. admitted more than 1 million legal immigrants - but less than 18,000 of them settled in Arizona.

Trump said Wednesday that legal immigrants must be prevented from going on welfare soon after they arrive. However, the 1996 welfare reform already requires that new immigrants wait five years before applying. Unlike 30 other states, Arizona does not offer any state-funded benefits to green-card holders before the five years are up.

The president also claimed that the bill will save American jobs currently held by legal immigrants. However, a study by the Migration Policy Institute found that overall, legal immigrants create economic activity, which creates jobs, and that very few low-skill workers are displaced.

Falcon noted that industries such as agriculture and tourism depend on immigrant labor.

"He specifically said they're taking away the jobs of people in the United States, and we know that's not true,” Falcon said. "There's so much work out there."

Many lawmakers, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, have called instead for comprehensive immigration reform.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ