A Bay State congressman and an immigrant advocacy group are condemning a proposed federal bill that critics say would curb legal immigration and give priority to highly-skilled workers who can speak English.
Proposed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ariz., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., the measure seeks to establish a skills-based points system, prioritize immediate family households, eliminate the diversity visa lottery and limit the number of refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year.
Overall immigration, said the sponsors, would be cut in half.
“This legislation is an affront to the American story,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-4th, “It is an attack on the promise that has led generations of hopeful families – mine included – to build a better life on our shores. In a nation proud of its diversity of backgrounds and beliefs, I strongly believe our people and our Congress will reject this bill.”
In statements, Cotton and Perdue said immigration laws need to be reformed to meet the economic needs on the country and raise wages for American workers that have been lowered due to cheap immigrant labor.
The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), however, called the bill “an attack on immigrants” not based on fact.
“Immigrants also start businesses at a higher rate than native-born people,” said Marion Davis, MIRA spokeswoman. “Indeed, immigrants have revitalized entire business districts in many Massachusetts communities.”
Immigrants represent a significant part of the state’s economy, the organization said: one in five workers in the state was born in another country and immigrants and refugees combined have over $27 billion in spending power each year.
Diego Low of the MetroWest Worker Center said the bill would make it even easier to exploit current immigrants. He cited cases of contractors calling ICE on their workers rather than paying for a worker’s medical costs after an injury on the job.
The bill, he said, also wouldn’t address the status of currently undocumented workers in the country.
“The bill doesn’t resolve any of those issues,” he said.