Hawley backs bill reducing immigration levels

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JEFFERSON CITY - Legislation backed by Sen. Josh Hawley to change immigration law in the United States was criticized by Catholic leaders when it was first introduced in 2017.

On Wednesday, Hawley announced he and two other GOP senators were reintroducing the Reforming American Immigration for A Strong Economy, or RAISE, Act. 

The bill reduces overall immigration levels, moves to a merit-based system and prioritizes immediate family households while eliminating preferences for some extended and adult family members. The bill also eliminates the diversity visa lottery, which currently provides 50,000 visas per year.

"We don't need gobs of people who are unskilled or low-skilled, who come in here and compete for jobs with Americans, who push down wages for hard-working Missourians," Hawley said in an interview Wednesday with KOMU 8 News. "What we need is an immigration system that actually works for the 21st century. We need to end chain migration. We need to move to a merit-based immigration system." 

In 2017, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration criticized the bill for having the country "turn its back on this long and storied tradition of welcoming families setting out to build a better life."

Tyler McClay, the executive director and general counsel for the Missouri Catholic Conference, said the bill would make changes to the focus of the U.S. immigration system.

"If someone is here and they've been here a while and they're trying to get their family members here to be with them, that's going to impact them because it might prevent them from getting them here, you know, altogether," he said in an interview Wednesday. 

Hawley joined Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, in re-introducing the legislation, which President Donald Trump in August 2017 said he supported.

The bill, according to a memo from the White House, "will create a merit-based immigration system that protects our workers, our taxpayers, and our economy."

Hawley said the current situation at the border is a "full-blown crisis" and the U.S. needs to secure the border.

"We need to protect our hard-working Americans, our hard-working Missourians, and this bill would do that," Hawley said.

McClay said the Catholic perspectives includes looking at immigration by recognizing the dignity of a person.

A concern on "a philosophical level," he said, "is that it prioritizes people with higher skills - almost commoditizing that as something of more value than just a person who maybe has low skills."

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