TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa immigration attorney Emel Ersan says she has a hard enough time trying to help illegal immigrants avoid deportation. With the announcement of new legislation, she is now more concerned than ever, that helping immigrants legal or illegal will be nearly impossible.
“Given this situation nobody even wants to try,” Ersan said. “They want to go underground.”
President Donald Trump introduced legislation on Wednesday with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., aimed at cutting legal immigration to the United States.
The bill — a revised version of an immigration-reform bill introduced in February — would change the system for granting legal residency, or green cards, by giving priority to high-skilled, English-speaking immigrants.
"This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy," Trump said today at the White House alongside Cotton and Perdue.
Ersan said the law goes against the values America was built on.
“It shouldn't have to be this way,” Ersan said. “This is a huge country. We have huge resources. We don't need to target people who are no concern to anyone. I think that he is so hell bent on satisfying his base he is going to be hard on immigration he doesn't understand who he is slaying these families are an asset to our community.”
The RAISE Act would establish a point-based system for issuing green cards and would give more points to people who are highly skilled — which, Trump suggested, would reduce the number of immigrants receiving government benefits.
"For some people, they may think that's a symbol of America's virtue and generosity," Cotton said of the current immigration system. "I think it's a symbol we're not committed to working-class Americans. We need to change that."
Trump, along the same lines, said the new legislation would lead to higher pay for American workers and "help ensure that newcomers to our wonderful country will be assimilated, will succeed and will achieve the American dream."
Ersan said families are getting torn apart every day. She says clients are arrested, sent to federal detention, and she has no way to help them. One of her clients has a son that was born in America and is extremely sick. Ersan said he applied for asylum and has to check in with immigration officials every three months. But, there is no guarantee that his next appointment with immigration officials will be his last.
The last time her client checked in Ersan said he told her he didn’t wake his children up to tell them goodbye. “He told me, ’I didn't wake up my daughters this morning…I didn’t want to tell them that they may not see their dad again because it was just too sad and I didn't want them to worry,’” Ersan said.
It's unclear when the Senate may take up the new legislation. The initial immigration reform bill was opposed by some Republicans and business groups and has been stalled in the Senate. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already criticized the measure, saying it would hurt his state's economy.