Lindsey Graham (copy)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks at a Republican event in Greenville. Andrew Brown/Staff

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has said he wants President Donald Trump to be bold on immigration by championing legislation to fix the broken system.

The proposal Trump endorsed on Wednesday was not what Graham had in mind.

In a statement, Graham expressed strong skepticism of a Trump-backed bill that would put new limits on legal immigration and seek to create a merit-based system to entice high-skilled workers to come to the United States but not those in the agriculture and tourism industries.

In a statement released Wednesday, the South Carolina Republican said the state's economy stands to lose if the bill passes.

"South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture and tourism is number two. If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy which relies on this immigrant workforce," Graham said in the media release.

The measure, which would make changes to the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, seeks to reduce the number of legal immigrants, mainly by limiting the number of foreign nationals attempting to get green cards to reunite with their families already living in the United States.

Statistically, it would cut the number of refugees admitted in half and eliminate a program that provides visas to countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

"South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers. Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled," Graham said in his statement. "Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal — to cut legal immigration in half — would put their business in peril."

Standing beside the bill's two sponsors, Republican U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, Trump praised the proposal as one that would "reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars."

Graham, who wants Trump to lend his clout to efforts to legalize certain undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as young children, said later on Wednesday he wasn't "disappointed" by the president's actions Wednesday, he just "disagreed" with the approach.

Asked whether he thought there might still be a chance for Trump to come to the aide of the recipients of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, Graham said, "there might be."

"He's said some great things about the DACA kids," he continued. "This proposal today, I think, is counterproductive.

In a separate interview with The Post and Courier on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., echoed many of Graham's sentiments.

"We need to fix our broken illegal immigration problem," Scott said, "but we also need to make sure we continue to encourage the legal process" to bolster the labor force in sectors where it is most needed.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report from Washington.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.