Sen. Tim Scott calls for "hybrid" system of immigration reform

Sen. Tim Scott on immigration bill
Sen. Tim Scott on immigration bill 05:39

After the unveiling of the Trump administration's latest agenda-setting direction on immigration reform, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina says the country needs a "hybrid" policy that reflects America's economy and family needs instead.

"I want to make sure that folks have an opportunity to assimilate to what it means to be an American and so what we should look for are hybrids where we meet our economic needs and at the same time allow for family cohesion to be what it always has been, which is the anchor of the American society," Scott said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

The RAISE act, which Mr. Trump threw his support behind at a press event Wednesday with the bill's sponsors, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, would establish a "points-based system for acquiring a green card," according to Mr. Trump. It would reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country while also preventing immigrants from collecting welfare once they arrive in the United States.

The bill aims to make the U.S. immigration system more competitive through rewarding immigrants who speak English, have financial stability and demonstrate useful skills, among other factors.

It would also end "chain migration" in the green card application process by only extending to immediate family, such as minor children and spouses. Finally, the legislation would limit the number of refugees permitted to enter the country and eliminate the visa lottery, which makes 55,000 Permanent Resident cards available every year to immigrants from "underrepresented countries," according to the Department of Labor.

"The problems within our legal immigration system isn't the number," Scott said. "If there's needs for reforms, we should reform the systems that need to be reformed, but the reality of it is it has less to do with the number and more to do with reforms and in South Carolina there's a lot of jobs that go unfilled because we can't the workers to do those jobs."

While Scott called the use of a merit-based system of entry for immigrants a "good idea" successfully implemented by other countries like Canada and Australia, he said the crucial step is to help fill the "largest holes in the our economy."

Scott said sectors like STEM (science, technology engineering and math) and agriculture are two areas where workers are desperately needed.

Scott's comments come after his South Carolina Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said that if the RAISE proposal becomes law, it would be "devastating to South Carolina's economy, which relies on the immigrant workforce." Graham said it would cut the immigration population in half for those who work legally in areas like agriculture, tourism and service industries. 

Scott says it's certainly possible to have both a merit-based program and one that allows for "family cohesion" to continue. 

"I'm a big proponent for us to sit down at the table, figure out which way is up, because right now we have a lot of issues we haven't figured that out on, and if we can figure that out, head in that direction. So for me, up is more workers who meet the high demands that we have within our economy. We need to match the folks coming into the country with the jobs that we need."

He added, however, that legal immigration has not been the main priority for lawmakers as of late. 

"There's nothing wrong with making sure that we create access for family members who are already here as long as we do it right, and the legal immigration system has not been the focus, nor has it been the problem for us for the last several years." 

  • emily-tillett-220x140.png
    Emily Tillett On Twitter»

    Emily Tillett is the digital producer at "Face the Nation"