Leon Vuong manages a store inside a Vietnamese supermarket on Buford Highway. He came to the United States more than 30 years ago with his family from Vietnam. He was 10 years old at the time.
“We were refugees, we were boat people,” he said. “We lived on a refugee camp, we went through all of that, and we made it here, and we have lived here, and we assimilated to the culture.”
Vuong agrees with the idea that immigrants should learn English and be allowed into the country based on what they can contribute. The bill proposed by Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., would change the way the U.S. issues green cards to immigrants to a skills-based system, looking at things like an applicant’s age, education, and ability to speak English.
However, Vuong doesn’t agree with further limiting the number of people able to immigrate. The legislation would cut the number of people able to immigrate into the country each year by half over the next decade.
“I think if people come in, and they’re able to take care of themselves as immigrants, and not living off the system – take in as many as you can, but they need to take care of themselves though,” Vuong said.
Jackie Walkes, immigrated to the country from Jamaica 35 years ago. She said she believes the proposal would be bad for the country and its economy.
“I don't think it's going to be good for America," she said. "I think we will become stagnant here without the diversity."
The bill also limits immigration based on family relationships – preferences for spouses and minor children would remain, but preferences for extended family and adult children would be eliminated.
Family sponsorship through extended family is how Nimi Idaikkadar, who was born in Sri Lanka, came to the U.S. when he was 11. He said his uncle sponsored his family's immigration to the U.S. at the time.
“United States – immigration, it’s always been home for the immigrants,” he said. “I can’t imagine, you know, where my life would be at.”
Idaikkadar acknowledged the immigration debate is heated. He said he doesn’t have the answers but is waiting to see what Congress will do.