WASHINGTON — President Trump embraced legislation Wednesday that would dramatically reduce legal immigration and shift the nation toward a system that prioritizes merit and skills over family ties.

Trump joined with Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas to promote the bill, which has so far gained little traction in the Senate.

“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and puts America first,” Trump said during an event in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

It was the latest example of the president championing an issue that animated the core voters of his 2016 campaign, following decisions to pull out of the Paris climate treaty and ban transgender people from the military.

The legislation would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards, creating a skills-based point system for employment visas. The bill also would eliminate the preference for U.S. residents’ extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children.

Overall, immigration would be slashed 41 percent in the legislation’s first year and 50 percent in its 10th, according to projection models cited by the bill’s sponsors. The bill also aims to slash the number of refugees in half and eliminate a program that provides visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration.

The rollout included a combative press briefing led by Trump policy aide Stephen Miller, who clashed with the media over the plan and accused one reporter of being “cosmopolitan” when he suggested it would only bring in English-speaking people from Britain and Australia.

Besides cracking down on illegal immigration, the president also has vowed to make changes to the legal immigration system, arguing that immigrants compete with Americans for much-needed jobs and drive wages down.

Most economists dispute those arguments, noting that immigration in recent decades doesn’t appear to have meaningfully hurt wages in the long run. Increased immigration is also associated with faster growth because the country is adding workers, so restricting the number of immigrants could slow the economy’s potential to expand.

The bill’s supporters, meanwhile, say it would make the U.S. more competitive, raise wages and create jobs.

The White House said that only 1 in 15 immigrants comes to the U.S. because of their skills, and the current system fails to place a priority on highly skilled immigrants.

But the Senate has largely ignored a previous version of the measure, with no other lawmaker signing on as a co-sponsor. Republican leaders have showed no inclination to vote on immigration this year, and Democrats quickly dismissed it.

“To cut (legal) immigration by half a million people … doesn’t make much sense,” said Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York, who called it a “nonstarter.”

Trump said the measure would prevent new immigrants from collecting welfare for a period of time and help U.S. workers by reducing the number of unskilled laborers entering the U.S.

But the president is mischaracterizing many of the immigrants as low-skilled and dependent on government aid. The Pew Research Center said in 2015 that 41 percent of immigrants who had arrived in the past five years held a college degree, much higher than the 30 percent of non-immigrants in the United States. A stunning 18 percent held an advanced degree, also much higher than the U.S. average..